'3G' hits the streets... of Seoul

Japan and the UK hang their heads in shame as South Korea beats the world...

Japan and the UK hang their heads in shame as South Korea beats the world...

A mobile technology vendor is today claiming a world first for South Korea: the only commercially available third generation (3G) mobile network. The news is likely to raise eyebrows in the UK and Japan where high profile 3G roll-outs planned for May have been postponed. The South Korean network runs on 1X IS95, a hybrid of the CDMA (code division multiple access) standard widely deployed in East Asia. Speeds of up to 100Kbps are possible with users likely to experience average connection rates of between 30Kbps and 40Kbps. Local manufacturer Samsung has produced the first multimedia handset to take advantage of the increased network capacity. And according to Eli Reifman, CEO of Emblaze Systems - which provides the video chipset inside the Samsung phone - this network is third generation by any other name. "This is the first phase of 3G. 3G exists," Reifman said. Purists will argue, however, that 3G will only really exist with the introduction of CDMA2000 in Asia and UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system) in Europe. Certainly IS95 bandwidth compares poorly with the 2Mbps promised with fully-fledged 3G. Nevertheless, Emblaze insists the infrastructure behind the South Korean mobile network made it the "best in the world". South Korea's three mobile operators have so far attracted 30 million subscribers out of a population of 46 million people. They will now be hoping to attract users to the latest standard with the promise of higher speeds and improved quality of service. Earlier this month, BT was forced to delay a 3G project on the Isle of Man when subsidiary Manx Telecom discovered a glitch in the NEC handset. Similar problems beset NTT DoCoMo's plans in Japan. Neither project will now see a commercial debut until the end of the summer at the earliest, although NTT DoCoMo has announced a 3G trial in Japan today.