South Korea has become one of the world’s major players in the telecommunications and IT market. The South Korean government has adopted a very progressive approach to deregulation, liberalisation and privatisation of the local telecom industry. The result has been willingness on the part of operators to invest in infrastructure and to be innovative, providing the basis for a booming telecommunications market.
Despite being opened up to competition in 1997, the fixed-line telephone market in South Korea continues to be dominated by the incumbent KT, formerly known as Korea Telecom.
South Korea is the third largest mobile market in Asia, topping the 35 million subscriber mark in March 2004. The market was reaching a point of saturation, with approximately 75% of the population carrying at least one mobile phone. With mobile TV broadcasting expected to be available by mid-2004, South Korea continues to push the boundaries of mobile communications. South Korea’s development as a leading mobile market has been boosted low tariffs and terminal costs, the introduction of competition in 1996, the nationwide roll out of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology and the arrival of camera-equipped mobile phones. Third Generation (3G) phones and advanced mobile services such as mobile gaming, m-banking and m-commerce have also kept the mobile market invigorated.
South Korea leads the world in the commercial application of broadband Internet technologies, with the highest number of broadband connections per capita. The country’s impressive broadband progress began in the late 1990s when the government issued a policy mandating that operators provide a 2Mb/s connection for every citizen. This broadband policy, combined with a competitive market and a densely populated and computer literate society, laid the foundations for Korea’s burgeoning broadband market.
Korea has become the most penetrated broadband market in the world, with over 80% of all homes with Internet accessing the network via a high-speed connection. See also: South Korea.
Telecommunications in North Korea is seriously impeded by a combination of its parlous economic state and government repression of communication. The number of fixed-lines and the volume of voice traffic in North Korea are minuscule compared with South Korea. Because of its mountainous landscape and the high cost of building fixed-line networks, a mobile telephone network is a much more viable option. Very limited mobile services began in late 2002. The country originally sought assistance from South Korea to set up this mobile service but was refused. It subsequently established a joint venture with a Thailand-based company in a special economic zone in north eastern North Korea. North Korea remains the only country in the world that had yet to adopt the Internet for public usage.
See also: North Korea.
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