Report: Korea 3G rollout may be delayed

Carriers in South Korea probably won't be able to launch 3G (third-generation) mobile voice and data services until late 2002 or 2003, a top government official said Wednesday, according to a report that appeared Thursday on the Web site of the South Korea-based JoongAng Ilbo newspaper.

"Considering the stability of the W-CDMA (Wideband Code-Division Multiple Access) service, it won't be possible to begin the service until late 2002 or 2003," the paper quoted Yang Seung-taik, minister of information and communication, as saying. W-CDMA is expected to be the basis of most 3G networks in Asia and Europe.

The South Korean government in December awarded licenses to two carriers, Korea Telecom Corp. and SK Telecom Co. Ltd., to offer 3G services using W-CDMA. At that time, an SK representative said the carrier would offer 3G in cities hosting the soccer World Cup by May 2002.

Yang also said Wednesday that two North American companies have decided to participate in a group bid for another 3G license, for a network that would use the CDMA2000 standard, the paper reported. He said the companies are conducting due-diligence examination of the proposed business. Yang reportedly said the government would be willing to award the license to a consortium majority-owned by foreign shareholders.

The prospects for early commercial introduction of 3G networks, which can provide up to 384K bps (bits per second) throughput to mobile customers, dimmed last month when Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc. announced it would delay the full commercial rollout of its service from May to October of this year. DoCoMo's service will use a version of the W-CDMA technology.

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