Broadband Britain : You can emulate Korean success - UPDATE

Findings from the East. Broadband everywhere - but profits?
Written by Tony Hallett, Contributor

Findings from the East. Broadband everywhere - but profits?

Two-thirds of South Korean households had broadband internet connections as of the end of August - and it's a figure the UK can match, in a relatively short period of time. That was one of the main conclusions of a comprehensive report by Brunel University and the DTI today. Together they carried out a fact-finding mission to the Asian country in the summer. Commenting on the study, Professor Ray Paul, Dean of the Faculty of Technology and Information Systems at Brunel, said: "In about five years, Korea has become a world leader. The UK government's target to be at the forefront of broadband can be achieved - success could be as quick." But a number of factors have contributed to the broadband boom in Korea which are unique to the area, including population density, government planning and gaming habits of consumers. This means it is uncertain the UK and other countries can simply take a copycat approach. Brunel university lecturer and taskforce member Dr Heejin Lee said: "The broadband internet is more or less embedded in the lives of ordinary families. It's taken for granted that's what they should buy." With IT training programmes for anyone who wants to sign up and school lessons, for example, being supplemented with online teacher homepages as standard, the benefits of broadband are well-known. Dr Antony Walker, senior executive ICT, Intellect/Broadband Stakeholder Group, added: "[Koreans] don't hesitate to tell you why they have it." Provision is divided between ADSL connections from Korea Telecom and smaller companies, accounting for over half the market, and cable modem services, from Hanaro Telecom and others. Typical bandwidth is 2Mbps, whereas in much of Europe users are promised rates of 512Kbps and often end up getting less. Despite the boom, however, few broadband providers are making money from the roll out. Online gaming company NCsoft is a high-profile beneficiary of the rapid uptake, as are some other content companies, but telco and cable providers have yet to make money - a fact telcos in the West will note. John Frieslaar, senior manager, Solutions and Business Development, Lucent Technologies and another taskforce member, said: "Where saturation is setting in, service providers business cases are turning towards finding supplements such as wireless networking and content. But the whole industry stimulus of broadband and [subsequent] consolidation will see strong businesses come out." The taskforce included executives from BTexact, Cable and Wireless, Eutelsat and Global Crossing as well as the representatives from the DTI and Brunel. We'll be publishing more on the 'Investigating broadband technology deployment in South Korea' report and related topics shortly.
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