South Korea to see first W-CDMA tests

The first trials of a third-generation (3G) cellular network based on the W-CDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) system in South Korea are due to take place during the World Cup soccer tournament.

Both SK Telecom Co. Ltd. affiliate SK IMT Co. and Korea Telecom Corp. affiliate KT ICOM Co. will run the tests, which are designed to impress visitors from around the world with the level of the domestic telecommunication technology, according to the companies. Korea Telecom, an official sponsor of the World Cup, will also demonstrate a wireless LAN service in stadiums.

On show will be a video-on-demand service, video phones and Multimedia Messaging Service, and KT ICOM also plans to offer a real-time video transmission service at 15 frames per second.

The latest plans, however, are far from what the companies originally envisaged.

When they were awarded their 3G licenses in December 2000, the two companies planned to have commercial service in place in time for the tournament. However, the bursting of the Internet bubble and concerns that carriers had spent too much acquiring their 3G licenses, having over-estimated customer demand for the service, led to a cooling of plans.

Instead, the carriers’ parent companies, which are two of the three major carriers in South Korea, expanded their existing second generation CDMA networks, first upgrading to a 144k bps CDMA2000 1x network and then a 2.4M bps CDMA2000 1x EvDO network. The latter network is now in place in each of the cities hosting the tournament and the carriers will also be demonstrating that during the tournament.

In Japan, the co-host of the tournament, NTT DoCoMo Inc. has been running a commercial W-CDMA network since October last year.