Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The vicissitudes of hardware exports

For some months now, the local press in Seoul have commented on the decline in some of Korea's flagship ICT products, notably smartphones and flat screen television sets.  Earlier this month, The Joongang Daily published an article with the accompanying graphic (click for a larger version).  The reasons for the decline in market share are not that difficult to discern and some are noted in the article.  They include competition from companies in China, and Apple, which recently introduced moderately priced phones.  More broadly,  smartphones are modular in nature and quickly become commoditized, making Korea's manufacturers vulnerable to competition from lower cost producers.    As noted in the article, the decline in flat screen television exports is partly driven by the popularity of online and mobile on demand TV services.  Simply put, more people are choosing to watch TV on mobile devices.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

South Korea's lead in speed

With the rapid spread of mobile communication and smartphones and the high proportion of data traffic accounted for by video, people and policymakers all around the world are coming to appreciate the importance of  speed in an internet connection.  Generally, the faster the better, as emphasized in numerous earlier posts on this blog.
Akamai, a leading industry monitor of the state of the internet, has published a web page that allows comparisons across countries over time.   As shown in the accompanying screen capture (click on the graphic for a larger version), Korea still leads the world in average connection speed (note that the southern half of the Korean peninsula is the only country shaded green on this world map!)
For comparison purposes, the second graphic here shows trends over time for China, the UK, the U.S. and South Korea, from Q3 of 2007 through the end of 2015.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pyeongchang 2018, the "5G Olympics"

KT is the official telecommunications service provider for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018 and the company has  dubbed them the "5G Olympics."  It intends to show the world how far it has gone in deployment and testing of 5G technologies. According to a recent post on the Netmanias Tech Blog, "KT is aiming to add 35,000 wired communication lines along the communication duct lines (1,391 km long) being placed across the town of the event. It also plans to install over 5,000 Wi-Fi APs, support 4G/5G/WiFi access, and deploy a mobile communication network capable of supporting up to active 250,000 devices concurrently. The company is also building a cloud-based data center to ensure more efficient and reliable mobile services through more stabilized networks even during traffic spikes with hundreds of thousands of concurrent users. The data center is scheduled to be completed in the first half of the year, and will become fully stabilized after trial operation in the second half of the year."
The timelines for deployment of the Olympics Network and its operation are shown in the accompanying graphic (click for a full-size version).  However, KT's efforts are not taking place in isolation.  There is domestic competition to develop 5G from the likes of SK Telecom, and considerable international interest and competition as well.  This is illustrated in a second interesting graphic published by the Netmanias Tech Blog (click for a full size version).
Beyond consideration of 5G network technologies per se, there is another important contextual factor at work.  As noted in earlier posts, that is Korea's commitment to build a nationwide Public Safety LTE Network by 2017.  So, it is no coincidence that Pyeongchang and the surrounding area are the location for initial testing of both 5G technologies and technologies for the PS-LTE networks.