Monday, August 31, 2009

Connecting at London's Heathrow versus Hong Kong International

On my recent trip to Barclona, I experienced the dramatically different approach that two of the world's airports have to wireless internet access, a convenience sought by an increasing number of world travelers. While Heathrow Airport in London sought to entice users to pay one euro for ten minutes of internet access, Hong Kong International Airport provided it for free and even offered a service to charge your notebook or netbook.Needless to say, I think Heathrow has missed the boat on this one. Eventually I
suspect that they will come to see the value of providing airport-wide free access to the internet and the short sighted nature of their attempts to "nickel and dime" any customer passing through the airport.
The two pictures embedded with this post tell the whole story. Just click on the thumbnails to the left to see a larger version of the picture.
Note that the first picture is from an internet area at Heathrow and contains the chairs with "Internet Here!" on the background. The screen displaying "free access" in this picture is intended to entice users for what is really a paid access service. A link on it leads to a small set of public service pages.

Korea's Mobile Market Malaise

I've just returned to Korea from a one-week visit to Barcelona as noted in my earlier post.  As I catch up on some reading of tech articles, I cannot help but mention several developments that go a long way toward explaining the malaise in South Korea's mobile communications market.
A headline in The Korea Times a couple of days ago asks "Can Smartphones, Netbooks Save WiBro?"  The answer to this question is pretty obvious to those following the massive shift in the mobile market worldwide, away from phones per se and toward internet-enabled devices like the Apple iPhone, Android and other would-be competitors.  At least one company in China seems to understand what is going on as China Unicom, the country's second largest mobile operator, announced with Apple that it will launch the iPhone in China.  It is more than a little interesting that this comes before any Korean mobile operator announces a similar deal.  For details, check out The Financial Times article.
The answer to the Korea Times headline question is that phones like the iPhone, Android phones and the like can do a great deal to boost interest in WiBro.  Why?  Because they allow access to the entire internet at reasonable monthly rates.  Also because WiBro-equipped devices offer greater speed than 3-G connections to the internet.  Internet users around the world have proven many times over that they value the speed of their interconnection.   Simply put, when it comes to broadband, speed matters.
People in Korea should not be wondering so much why WiBro has not yet taken off here. The experience of the iPhone for over two years now in many other countries shows that (1) people want internet access, not a small, pre-packaged segment of the internet only in Korean or only in any other single language (2) they prefer faster rather than slow access via their mobile device and (3) that people find different applications very useful, including many types of geospatial and social networking applications.
Failure to realize the importance of the Google-backed Android and the iPhone have put the Korean market well behind (2+years) significant global trends.  The whole mobile communications market in South Korea will only emerge from the current malaise when one or two companies start offering internet services via the iPhone, Android phones and possibly other competitors.  Although the iPhone was first out of the starting block back in 2007, I think Android will give it a run for the money worldwide,including the South Korean market.  Comments welcome.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Report from Barcelona--August 2009

I've been in Barcelona since Monday of this week for a one-week vacation.  A couple of observations seem relevant to this blog.

1.  The hotel where we're staying provides wireless internet, gratis, but the speeds are noticeably somewhat slower than what we're used to in Korea.  In Korea, even in the countryside of Kangwon province, we get a solid 54 mbps connection.  In Barcelona, we've found ourselves waiting for web pages to load, and unable to do some online seat booking with British Airways for our return trip, presumably because of the slower speeds and online forms timing out.

2. Our hotel advertised "international channels" on the television, which is provided via a relatively new Samsung flat screen set.   We were a bit surprised, so asked at the front desk and found that they are shifting all hotel television to digital within a week.  So they sent a technician up to our room who configured the cable so that we could receive all of the analog English and other language channels.

Looking forward to getting back to the land of the morning calm and fast internet!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rising DRAM Prices--More Good News for Korea's ICT Sector

I've been reading with great interest about how Korean mobile phone handsets and LED backlit television sets are doing so well in the U.S. and other international markets. Today, the Joongang Ilbo reports that the good news has spread to dynamic random access memory chips (semiconductors) which are a big item for Samsung Electronics and Hynix. These memory chips are important components of many modern digital devices. Saying abreast of technology change in the DRAM industry requires huge capital investment. Nevertheless, these chips are an important commodity in the information age, and Korea seems positioned to maintain its world leading position as a manufacturer and exporter of DRAM chips. NAND flash memory is another interesting category, and the semiconductor industry in Korea is steadily making efforts to branch out into other types of chips. I'll be on vacation for the next week, so will probably not post any additions to the blog until September.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea

I wrote this book in the early 1990s and was pleased to have it published by Oxford University Press. I was further pleased to see that many libraries around the world purchased the book, so that it became more or less universally available to scholars and professionals interested in Korea's amazing transformation that began in the 1980s. Today, I am delighted to know that anyone in the world with an internet connection can read the book. Google is still working on about a dozen pages that somehow were missed in the scanning process. However, far more important than that is that the book is now available via the web in a searchable format. The easiest place to read The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea is on my personal website, at the following URL: Take a look, and explore the book. As author, I myself appreciate what this power to search brings. Indeed, electronic search, via Google, is the revolutionary aspect of Google Books. From now on, no student or teacher at any level need consult the old, limited library databases. Welcome to the 21st century! I'll do another post when my other books are up and running.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Korea's Image Problem

A headline in the Joongang Daily caught my attention: "Korea Aiming to Refine Image Abroad." The article which followed the headline dealt with efforts of the Lee Myung Bak administration to improve the nation's brand image in the world. President Lee has convened a Presidential Council on National Branding. Lee Chan-buom, now the Director General of Korea's Presidential Council on National Branding, noted the adverse impact on Korea's image of news media coverage of the anti-US beef import candlelight vigils in early 2008. Those demonstrations were visually colorful, prolonged and mysterious to most western and international television viewers and internet users. Rightly or wrongly so, they created an image that South Korea is unstable, flighty and tends toward anti-Americanism. The article notes that nation-branding may be a difficult task in a country that has seen numerous street protests, corruption and frequent confrontation with its neighbor, North Korea. I'll say!
I've long been interested in the effects of mainstream media coverage, especially television, on public opinion and U.S. foreign policy toward other countries. (see, for example, my article on "Quiet Diplomacy in a Television Era Use the link and you can read the full text, PDF.). That was back in 1990. However, despite the explosive growth of the internet, (see my monograph, The Internet and Foreign Policy) the pattern continues. Korea's new President Council on National Branding will have to deal with television and the internet, most especially since convergence means that television (IPTV) is now part of the internet. In this new media environment, coverage by CNN, BBC World or The New York Times are a fact of life. Anti-beef import protests, stories about the sexual adventures of North Korea's Kim Jong-Il, and almost any topic, will be fair game for the world's media. The internet, television and the media (roughly in that order) are today significant determinants of corporate, national and even individual images. In this context, how should Korea proceed to improve its national image?
I have a couple of thoughts. First, news coverage of North Korea, and news coverage of demonstrations in South Korea are not going to go away. Furthermore, they are not under the control of the South Korean government. The only real solution to the problem that North Korea poses for South Korea's national image is to make real progress toward reunification, and the sooner the better. Second, any efforts to brand Korea should stay away from quick-fix advertising gimmicks like "Korea Sparkling" or even "Dynamic Korea" and should build from long-standing realities. For example, Hangul is the Korean alphabet and that is not likely to change. Kimchi is eaten by Koreans and that, too, is unlikely to change anytime soon. It is an interesting challenge. I don't have any further insights at the moment, but will likely comment in future posts.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Read my book....except for pp. 3-13 for the time being

Thanks to BJ for noting that pages 3-13 are still missing from Google's scan of The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea.  The Google Book staff are working on this.  Also, the book should be searchable via Google Book Search within a couple of weeks.