Monday, December 21, 2009

Fixed-mobile convergence and the Role of Wi-Fi in Korea

Now that the iPhone is available in the South Korean market, the media are beginning to discuss a number of issues.  One of the interesting ones is the role of Wi-Fi in the continuing convergence of digital media.   As noted in The Korea Times this morning, mobile carriers in Korea had considered Wi-Fi more as a threat than an opportunity, even blocking handset vendors from including the wireless broadband functions on their devices over worries about losing data traffic or voice minutes.  SK Telecom, in particular, has been criticized by users for years for forcing Korean handset vendors Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics to exclude Wi-Fi from phones offered to its subscribers.
Now, things seem to have changed and SK Telecom is considering new ways to incorporate Wi-Fi access into its service offerings.  I'll say things have changed!  They began changing nearly three years ago with introduction of the iPhone.  The significance of the iPhone is not as a "smart phone" but rather that it begins to utilize various applications made possible by mobile broadband.   Until the full build-out of WiBro and perhaps LTE networks in Korea, (and even after that) Wi-Fi plays a very important role in the mobile broadband picture and in so-called "fixed-mobile convergence."  KT seems to recognize that with the iPhone and the manner in which it is leveraging its NESPOT network to sell the iPhone in Korea.  Let's hope that SK Telecom and LG Telecom follow that lead.  

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