South Korea has been singled out as the most advanced country in the world for mobile communications, complementing its enviable position as the leader for households with broadband internet connections.
Denmark's Strand Consult has made the claim, which coincides with a £75m infrastructure contract signed by KT ICOM -- Korea Telecom's 3G unit -- and equipment vendor LG Electronics for next-generation technology for the launch of 3G in Seoul by June next year.
Strand's report says: "The Korean mobile operators have quietly worked very hard the last few years and are now three to five years ahead of the rest of the world."
The consultancy's notes that South Korean mobile phone users can boast of download speeds of up to 144Kbps, colour screens, advanced mobile services such as the Korean version of MMS (Multimedia Messaging), preconfigured phones and segmented subscription offerings according to age, gender and interests. Since Korean network operators are not allowed to subsidise handsets, all have been purchased at full price.
Strand's report, "The Korean mobile market, a window to 3G", states that 25 per cent of operators' subscribers -- nine million people -- have bought 2.5G phones, five million of those have chosen more expensive colour screen models and around 75 per cent of those with new terminals use advanced mobile services regularly.
Bernd Eylert, chairman of the UMTS Forum, called the findings "encouraging", even though Korea is more closely associated with the CDMA mobile communications technology and not GSM, created in Europe.
He point out that despite Korea's CDMA heritage, two out of three mobile operators will be upgrading to the W-CDMA version of 3G, generally thought of as the UMTS Forum's preferred flavour, and not CDMA2000, developed by Qualcomm of the US.
KT's KTF mobile unit, a sister company of KT ICOM, is currently running 3G-like services using Qualcomm's CDMA2000 1X EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimised).