SEOUL, South Korea South Korea launched its long-awaited commercial mobile WiMax service Friday (June 30), the Ministry of Information and Communication said.
Known as WiBro, the mobile broadband Internet service originated through technology from broadband Internet service carrier KT Corp. and mobile telecommunications network provider SK Telecom Co. Ltd.
KT and SK Telecom said they launched WiBro, based on Intel Corp.'s WiMax standard, at several high-demand areas in and around Seoul. Both companies plan to expand coverage throughout Seoul and surrounding cities by the end of this year, and nationwide by 2008.
KT had conducted trial WiBro services in selected areas in and around Seoul since March. It first showcased a test run of the technology at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Busan, South Korea last November.
According to KT, users could enjoy wireless connection into Internet while on the move at speeds as high as 120 km (74 miles) per hour.
The base service stations have a coverage radius of 1 km, while existing hotspots for public wireless LAN services reach 50 meters, according to the service providers.
Presently, subscribers can access the WiBro service only by using a PCMCIA card provided by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. The card is priced at 300,000 won ($312). KT said WiBro-enabled portable devices, including notebooks, PDAs and dual-mode terminals combining WiBro and other advanced wireless communication services will soon be commercially available.
KT and SK Telecom initially charge subscribers of the basic service fees at 16,000 won (US16.6) and 30,000 won per month, respectively. They said they will soon introduce a series of differentiated pricing systems for subscribers, depending on the volume or type of data transactions.
Both carriers are set to provide subsidies of up to 100,000 won ($105) each to subscribers purchasing WiBro-enabled handsets. The government has allowed the subsidies in an apparent bid to promote the technology as one of the main projects to bolster the nation's information technology sector.
As part of the effort, KT has set up an international community of 21 overseas telecommunications operators to build a global "roaming belt" for the service.