Thursday, September 29, 2011

Progress toward 4G Mobile Service in South Korea

The Joongang Daily has a nice summary of the nation's progress toward full-scale 4G (fourth generation) mobile service, accompanied by a summary graphic (click to see a larger version of the graphic).  As the article notes,with a data transfer speed of 100 megabytes per second, 4G services allow users to enjoy higher-speed Internet and services that couldn’t be handled by 3G, including high-quality multimedia support such as HD and 3-D video streaming and network games.
The article suggests that KT is lagging in 4G deployment which, strictly speaking, is not an accurate characterization. Rather, KT chose to build out its WiBro network before investing heavily in LTE. WiBro itself, developed in Korea, is a legitimate 4G service, even if a bit slower than LTE.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

World's first "CNN Cafe" opens in Seoul

Anyone living in Korea over the past decade or so cannot help but notice the remarkable proliferation of coffee shops, led by Starbucks and followed by many similar competitors.   Now there may be a new twist, as CNN and YBM Education have teamed up to open the world's first CNN Cafe in Seoul. (click on the accompanying graphic to see a larger version)  As reported by Campaignasia, the new CNN concept 'coffice' (coffee-office) offers customers free wi-fi, computers and printing services, and features CNN content across different platforms, including a live feed of the CNN International channel on a large screen, the latest CNN newswires on a digital ticker and computer terminals featuring and
The new marketing initiative is due to the growing number of self-employed and students who study at coffee shops.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Should I seek a publisher for my new book or publish it myself?

As readers of this blog will know, I've made my previous academic books available over the internet via Google Books.  Anyone wishing to read Television's Window on the World, based on my doctoral dissertation, Global Television and the Politics of the Seoul Olympics, co-authored with Prof. Heung Soo Park, Television in the Olympics, co-authored with Miquel de Moragas and Nancy Rivenburgh, and several other books and monographs, may do so via the internet.
Now, I'm in the middle of writing my own account of the role of telecommunications in Korea's transformation.  It is written in the first person, in order to draw upon my personal experiences spanning the past four decades or so.
My question is very simple.  Should I seek a reputable academic or commercial publisher, as I've always done in the past, or publish it myself? (via one of the services that allow e-book and more conventional formats) I'm well aware that the book publishing industry has been turned on its head by the information revolution and perhaps even more aware that there is no financial reward for publishing academic works.
I'd love to hear reader opinion on this, since it may influence just how I "publish" this new book.   Thanks in advance for your input.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Korea still the world's most advanced internet and telecommunications economy

The ITU has released its annual study on Measuring the Information Society, and South Korea remains the number one country in the world, as measured by its ICT Development Index.  As shown in the accompanying excerpt from Table 2.2 of the ITU report (click on the graphic to see a larger version), Korea was followed in the 2010 rankings by four Scandinavian countries and Hong Kong.  The Director of the ITU's telecommunications development bureau, in the foreword to this new study, makes the following observation.
"The ICT for development debate is witnessing an obvious shift:  the focus is no longer on the mobile-cellular miracle, but on the need for high speed broadband Internet access.  The report shows that wireless broadband Internet access is the strongest growth sector, with prepaid mobile broadband mushrooming in many developing countries and internet users shifting from fixed to wireless connections and devices.  The emergence of new mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, is accelerating this process, but they are still too expensive in developing countries and there is a need to develop more affordable models and products.  Furthermore, the availability of bandwidth and capacity will increasingly determine the use and beneficial impacts of ICTs."   The Director goes on to note that the policy focus is most often on enhancing ICT infrastructure and access, yet the full impact of ICT in development will only be felt once people are using technologies effectively.
The broad global trends he refers to are illustrated in the second accompanying graphic (again, click to see a full-size version).  Although the rapid adoption of mobile broadband is only an incipient trend as shown in the line graph on the left of the graphic, its growth rate, shown by the bar graph on the right supports the notion that the world is on the verge of an explosive growth in mobile broadband over the next several years, with implications for developed and developing countries alike.
There is much, much more to read in this report, for those of you who follow the topic of ICT in development.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Smartphone Race a Hardware Battle? Samsung's Future

The Financial Times carried an interesting article today entitled "Samsung needs to hit reset button." .
It referred to the company's strength in hardware, notably memory chips, in which it invested  Won11,000bn last year.  Also, its bright and power-efficient Amoled (or active matrix organic light-emitting diode) mobile screens are increasingly the industry standard.
But the long term worry for Samsung is software, which is crucial to its increased focus on high-end consumer electronics such as smartphones and tablets. Falling prices for chips – which constituted about half of second-quarter operating profit – have pushed Samsung to prioritise its Galaxy devices, which are big challengers to Apple’s iPhone and iPad.
The article goes on to quote Chang Sea-jin, professor at Singapore National University who says Samsung was fortunate to produce such devices just as Google’s Android was becoming a standard operating system. He argues this reduced the smartphone race to a “hardware battle, where Samsung is strong”.
However, especially since Google's acquisition of Motorola, Korean government sources have expressed concerns about Samsung's weakness in software. Kim Young-Chan, an analyst at Shinhan Securities is quoted as saying that “Samsung cannot easily build up software in a short time and it is hard to expect major changes from Korean engineers with fixed ways of thinking,” said Mr Kim. “But Samsung will not be marginalised, given its strength in hardware.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Global Internet is Decentralizing: Where South Korea Fits

Telegeography has come out with a very interesting new report on Global Internet Geography that shows clearly how the global internet is decentralizing.   To see a full size version of the accompanying graphic, click on it. According to the report, .the global Internet is far less centered on the United States than it was 10 years ago. The development of rich regional networks, coupled with a need for diversification, has reduced the share of international capacity connected to the U.S. for all regions except Latin America.
The report also notes that the shifting topology of the global Internet is tied to the desire to locate content nearer to end users and, ultimately, reduce latency. Several carriers reported that improved routing efficiencies, largely attributable to the caching and localization of content, have reduced traffic on their interregional links and led to more rapid growth on local and regional links. (I have put "localization" in bold to emphasize it.).
The desire to locate content nearer to end users is something that will be apparent to any Korean internet user who has impatiently waited for web pages hosted on servers in the U.S. to respond.   The localization of content is a much more important matter, especially here in South Korea.   This nation, despite possessing the world's most extensive and advanced digital networks, stands out as only one of four countries in the world where Google does not yet have a respectable market share for web search.  See my post in late 2009, before the late arrival of Apple's iPhone here.  The internet in Korea, despite its dazzling networks, is still largely a walled garden ( if you doubt that, do a search of this blog for "walled-garden" to read some of my other posts.)  The vast majority of web surfing done by Koreans is done right here on within the southern half of the peninsula, using Naver, Daum and other popular Korean language sites.  This fact alone says volumes about the nature of the internet and the nature of Korea's information society.  I suspect that similar patterns elsewhere in the world account for the Telegeography findings.  What does all of this say about the role of language and culture in 21st century communications and the potential role of the internet in promoting global awareness?   While the younger generations here in Korea are beginning to search the worldwide web using Google, thanks to the arrival of smartphones in late 2009, these are questions that deserve to be examined in some detail.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Students are Developers at Korea's Game Science High School

Korea's system of specialized high schools includes one that focuses on game science.  It was the subject of a post here more than three years ago.  This morning The Joongang Daily carried an interesting article with some updated information on programs at the high school. (click on the photo at the left to see a full size version)
At Korea Game Science High School in Wanju, North Jeolla, students are getting a head start on becoming innovative leaders in the game industry.
Through a new school program, IT Industry Development Center for Adolescents, designed to promote entrepreneurship, students have founded 16 companies that have created numerous online and mobile games - some of which have become hits.
The program, the first of its kind in the nation, has instilled a sense of possibility and confidence in the students, many of whom say that they want to emulate, if not challenge, Steve Jobs.
Each company is comprised of three to four students - mainly juniors and seniors - and is provided with separate offices with Apple computers and faculty advisers.
IT companies have also chipped in to help, providing technical support and advice for the student entrepreneurs.
Students in the program develop games on the weekends and from 9 p.m. to midnight on weekdays. To help promote their products and their companies, the school program also organizes monthly conferences.
Recently, Choi Young-jae, 18, set up a company called L II with his classmates. Their mobile phone game, My Drawing Story, was released in July and has become a huge hit, downloaded more than 10,000 times in two weeks. The game, in which the player defeats monsters and goes on a journey by drawing shapes, has received the highest marks from reviewers for its exciting story line and abundant contents.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Korea's Hardware Success and Software Challenge

A great deal has been written over the years about the strength of Korea's IT manufacturing and export sector in comparison to its relative weakness in software and content industries. The Joongang Daily has a lengthy article on the topic today, with supporting data and an effort to explain why Korea remains relatively week in the software area.
According to the article, as Korean companies take a hard look at their software vulnerabilities, they say they see a vicious cycle at work.
First, students shun software-related majors at universities. The quality of Korean software manpower falls behind that of other advanced countries. Companies don’t pay and treat their software engineers right. And that goes back to students shunning software majors at universities.
The accompanying graphic shows average salaries by certain occupational groups (click on the graphic to see a full size version).
According to a recent report by the Samsung Economic Research Institute, the number of places in IT-related departments at about 100 major universities in Korea have been declining for four years straight since 2006.
Admission quotas, or places, in computer engineering departments plunged at the fastest rate. The figure stood at 80 in 2006, but decreased to 73 in 2009. That compares to the figure for electric and electronic engineering, which inched down from 87 in 2006 to 85 in 2009.
“As the IT environment undergoes rapid changes, it’s crucial for Korea to secure software capability fast,” the report pointed out. “But universities appear to have succeeded in neither attracting top-tier software talent nor providing high-quality education programs.”
“The morale of Korea’s software talent is at its lowest,” said Daniel Lee, 41, CEO of Inspirit, a local company that makes software for mobile communication networks. “The importance of software is growing day by day, but if things don’t change, Korea’s software industry has no future.”
Some cite an even broader problem in the Korean technology industry: An under-appreciation of the value of start-ups and their innovative ideas, except by foreign tech firms.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

KT Stuck in 2G Mobile Service Conundrum?

The complex interplay between mobile service providers, Korea's telecommunications regulator and the handset and equipment manufacturers is the underlying theme of an interesting article in The Korea Times today.
KT, the country’s No. 2 mobile carrier, desperately needs to close its second-generation (2G) mobile service after dropping its bid for the 1.8 gigahertz (GHz) band in the government auction, otherwise it will lag behind competitors in adopting the ultra-fast 4G service. The regulator, however, isn’t approving KT’s move without proper guidelines.
As noted in an earlier post, KT dropped its bid for the 1.8 GHz band Monday, allowing competitor SK Telecom, the biggest player in the industry, to buy the band at 995 billion won, more than double the starting price.
“We sought approval from the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) for our plan to close the 2G service early August,” a KT representative said.
However, it remains to be seen whether the regulator will approve it. KT already sought approval a few months ago, but the KCC rejected it saying the carrier still has too many 2G users.
KT said it has greatly decreased the number of 2G users since then. It currently has 320,000 2G users, a steep decrease from 1.1 million in March when it first announced the plan to halt 2G service.
“The number is decreasing by thousands each day. We expect to get the green light this time,” the KT representative said. KT has been trying to lure 2G users to its 3G service, providing new handsets for free or offering subsidies and exempting subscription fees.
KT Chairman Lee Seok-chae held a press meeting, and announced that KT would halt the 2G service in September to launch LTE service in November. Lee’s remark is regarded as pressure on the KCC to allow it to halt 2G service.