By Martyn Williams

IDG News Service

Intel Corp. plans to open a research and development centre in South Korea before the end of this year, the company announced Friday.

The centre will concentrate on development of technologies for the digital home and wireless communications, areas in which South Korea is considered one of the leading nations. Among the projects slated to be carried out at the centre include Ultra Wideband (UWB) wireless technology and Wireless Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax) last-mile wireless broadband, Intel said in a statement.

South Korea has one of the highest broadband penetration rates in the world. At the end of July there were 11.2 million broadband connections in the east Asian country of 48 million people.

The wide availability of broadband connections has spawned a host of services and applications, including video-on-demand, video streaming services and interactive and network gaming. The country’s two largest electronics companies, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and LG Electronics Inc. are also looking towards the connected home and have put on sale a small number of networked appliances, including a refrigerator.

The country also holds a leading position in wireless infrastructure with a cellular telephone service supporting data transmission of up to 2.4Mbps already in commercial service and a growing network of wireless LAN hotspots.

Plans for the research and development centre were disclosed as Craig Barrett, chief executive officer of Intel, visited South Korea on the final leg of a four-nation Asian tour.

Barrett began the week in Taipei where he opened a research and development lab that will work on technology for communications devices and product reference designs. On Tuesday he was in Penang, Malaysia, and announced Intel will spend US$40 million to construct a design and development centre.

Wednesday saw Barrett move on to Chengdu, China, and the signing of a memorandum of understanding to construct a test and assembly facility there. The plant, Intel’s second in China, will represent an initial investment of US$200 million and a further US$175 million at some time in the future, Intel said. Construction is due to begin in early 2004 with operations scheduled to begin in late 2005.

On Thursday in Beijing, Intel said it will establish a joint research centre with local computer maker Legend Group Ltd. The Intel-Lenovo Technology Advancement Center, which takes part of its name from a Legend hardware brand, will be charged with developing secure computing and next-generation Internet technologies for the Chinese market.