A project between Intel and Korea Telecom is aiming to turn South Korea into the first country with nationwide WiMax coverage.
The two companies announced today the expansion of their effort to roll out WiMax-based high-speed Internet service throughout South Korea.
Currently available in Seoul, Inchon, and Suwon, the expanded service will reach five new cities as of tomorrow–Busan, Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon, and Ulsan–and also cover the expressways of Gyeongbu, Jungbu, Honam, and Yeongdong.
The expanded service, dubbed a “mobile wonderland” by Korea Telecom, will offer a “3W” network, so named because it will consist of WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access) 3G mobile communications, wireless LAN, and Wibro (wireless broadband) high-speed Internet.
Wibro is a South Korean flavor of WiMax that operates under a different frequency than standard WiMax. But Korea Telecom said it’s changing its Wibro network to operate over the 10MHz channel used by traditional WiMax. That effort should improve the quality of the service by offering greater compatibility with WiMax networks around the world.
As a result of the new initiatives, Korea Telecom said it expects that by March, it will be the first carrier in the world to offer nationwide WiMax service, covering 82 cities across Korea, or 85 percent of the total population.
“We will cooperate with Intel in every way to promote the wireless Internet,” Korea Telecom CEO Suk-chae Lee said in a statement. “Just like a seamless transportation network requiring expressways, railroads, and aviation, KT will develop a 3W network with Wibro, Wi-Fi, and WCDMA technologies complementing each other to make Korea the world’s best mobile wonderland.”
As part of the effort, new Intel-powered notebooks and Netbooks with built-in WiMax are hitting store shelves. The built-in WiMax comes via Intel’s Centrino Advanced-N + WiMax 6250 network adapter, eliminating the need for USB modems or small wireless routers. Starting tomorrow, Korean consumers can buy the new portable computers from Samsung, LG, and Acer.
Finally, Intel Capital, the company’s investment arm, will pump $20 million into Wibro Infra Company, a joint venture with Korea Telecom, Samsung, and KBIC, a Korean equity firm. That investment will help speed up the deployment of Korea Telecom’s wireless broadband infrastructure and firm up Intel’s WiMax efforts in Asia Pacific, which it called the world’s fastest-growing wireless broadband region.
South Korea has been lauded in the past for the pace at which it’s been able to ramp up high-speed telecom network through a combination of government initiatives and broadband competition.