Mobile WiMAX approved, Korea says

Mobile WiMAX approved, Korea says

New broadband wireless technology has been slow to take off

WiBro, a variant of the WiMAX wireless internet standard, has been approved as a global standard by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), according to Korean government sources quoted in South Korea media. The WiBro technology, which is designed to provide wireless broadband internet connections to mobile users, was developed by the Korean government and local telecommunications companies such as Samsung and PosData.

The ITU formally accepted technologies underlying WiBro as international standards for third generation mobile telecommunications at a meeting in Geneva late last week, the reports said. WiBro is Korea's name for a mobile version of the WiMAX wireless internet technology. ITU announcements do not appear to mention WiBro by name, but instead refer to acceptance of technology related to the Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) transmission protocol, which underlies both WiBro and WiMAX.

"It is a milestone in the history of Korea's telecommunications technology and will help us maintain the front runner position in the global race for next-generation mobile technologies," Song Yoo-jong, a Korean government official told the Korea Herald.

ITU approval could give a much needed boost to WiBro, which has so far reached less than half its target of 200,000 Korean users in 2007, despite massive investment.

At a WiMAX seminar in Taipei last week, senior executives of networking equipment vendor, D-Link, predicted that Wimax products would break through into the mass market in 2009, Taiwanese media reported. WiBro will grow rapidly to become a $41.4bn worldwide business by 2012, researchers from Korea's government-funded Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) forecast.

WiBro operates in a similar manner to common Wi-Fi wireless networks, however it has much greater range and operates at far higher speeds. A single WiBro basestation can serve an area as large as several square kilometers. The network typically offers connected users speeds of between 1 and 3mbps, its backers claim. Unlike Wi-Fi, WiBro is designed to work well even when users are moving at high speed in vehicles, and also provides almost instant handover between neighbouring base stations as the user moves around.