WiBro Enabled on iPod Touch, Nintendo DS
By Kim Tong-hyung
The backers of WiBro tout the wireless technology as ``Wi-Fi on steroids.'' Consumers will now be able to test the claim for themselves, with the country's biggest WiBRo operator, in desperation to gather more subscribers, introducing a portable gateway that enables WiBro on Wi-Fi devices such as laptop computers, portable media players and game machines.
KT, the country's largest telephone company and Internet operator, said that its wireless gateway, ``Egg,'' will hit the shelves at electronic stores later this month.
The device will allow WiBro connectivity in products with Wi-Fi capability, such as Apple's iPod Touch multimedia players, the Nintendo DS handheld game consoles, and a wide range of laptop computers and other mobile Internet devices.
Egg will come with a 220,000 won (about $163) price tag, although subscribers to KT's monthly 27,000 won flat-rate plan, which provides an allowance of 50 gigabytes in data use, get the machines free of charge.
The device will also be sold at Apple's major retail stores in Samseong-dong and Myeong-dong, Seoul, starting in May, KT officials said.
``We believe that Egg will offer our WiBro services to more customers, as it had been only compatible with a limited number of terminals for laptops and phones,'' said Kang Kuk-hyun, who heads KT's WiBro business.
WiBro, a local variant of mobile WiMAX, provides faster data rates than third-generation (3G) services, with download speeds of around 37 megabytes per second and upload speeds of 8 megabytes per second.
However, in one of the world's most wired nations, WiBro has struggled to gain traction. KT has spent more than 730 billion won on its WiBro business since its commercial launch in 2006, but has little to show for it. SK Telecom, the mobile telephony king and the country's other WiBro operator, has it even worse.
The two companies have just 170,000 customers in total and a hair above 25 billion won in revenue for their WiBro services, making a mockery of government predictions of 1.4 million subscribers and 290 billion won in sales by 2008.