A model shows the PassON package, the mobile toll paying system from LG Telecom. Cars equipped with the radio-frequency transmitter can use highway’s electronic toll lanes.
By Cho Jin-seo
New technologies can improve holiday pursuits.
During the five-day Chuseok holiday starting Saturday, many will take trains, buses or planes to spend a few nights with their parents and relatives. Others will take a well-earned rest from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
For people who will brave the congested highways, a mobile phone with an electronics toll paying system may come in handy in making the journey less miserable. For those who prefer staying at home, Internet TVs will make the long vacation less boring.
Pay Toll With Mobile Phone
LG Telecom's PassON is a service that allows drivers to pay expressway tolls with their mobile phones, reducing the time spent in the long queue of the notorious Chuseok traffic.
The service is linked to the High Pass service of the Korea Highway Corporation. Up to 23 percent discount is offered to users of the electronic toll collection system, which has been under test runs in several cities.
Users first have to buy one of five PassON phones, a radio frequency transmitter and a High Pass card. They can pay for the bill on the mobile phone and the result is transferred to the card via BlueTooth wireless protocol. When a car with the on-board transmitter unit passes through tollgates, the fee is automatically deducted from the card.
The smartest point of the PassON system is that it notifies users with a voice or written message when available credit in the card is low. The driver does not need to pull over at rest stops to recharge it.
The fee for the PassON service is only 1,000 won per month and LG is offering it for free for three months. But there is a 50,000-won deposit for the on-board unit. The Korea Highway Corporation will then subtract 2,000 won from the deposit every month as a kind of service fee.
The worst part of the service is that it is available only at LG Telecom, the smallest of the three mobile carriers in Korea, at this stage.
^The highway authorities said that SK Telecom and KTF had rejected their partnership offer, citing contract conditions.
``We were more desperate than others,'' Hyun Jun-yong, senior vice president of LG Telecom, said jokingly during a press conference earlier this month, about how his company won the contract. ``But we think other carriers will soon follow us though they will need some time to be physically ready. It's only a matter of time. We will welcome them to enter the business because we want the pie to get bigger.''
The company said that it initially tried to make a cell phone with a built-in PassON transmitter instead of the separated unit that is mounted on the dashboard. Though there were no big technical obstacles, it was still found unfeasible in the business aspect, Hyun said.
``Let's say that 40 people are riding on a bus and they are carrying PassON mobile phones. Imagine what will happen when the bus passes the High Pass gate,'' he said. ``So it was critical to make the device a car-dependent system, not user-dependent.''
^It may not be the most brilliant idea to go on a test drive during the Chuseok holidays when the whole expressway from Seoul to Busan gets jam-packed. However, for people who have to drive their way through the highway, the mobile toll system can save considerable time at tollbooths.
IPTV Brings Theater Into Home
Na Sung-min feels he's completely ready for Chuseok. For a 30-something single man, going to a family gathering means that his marital status will become a topic of conversation at the dinner table. So this time he's decided to have a lonely but peaceful rest at home with Hana TV.
``As a documentary fan, I am very satisfied with Internet TV,'' Na said, adding that the previous night he watched a film on the 10 most disastrous plane crashes in history.
Internet TV is gaining big momentum. Hanaro, Telecom's Hana TV says it has drawn more than 500,000 customers in one year and expects the figure to double by early next year. KT, the nation's dominant fixed-line telephone and broadband line operator, is also eager to take a piece of the swelling pie with its ``Mega TV'' service.
IPTV (Internet protocol TV) is a system where contents are delivered to TV by using broadband Internet lines and a set-top box, instead of using traditional TV antennas, cable boxes or satellite dishes. Users can select programs they want to watch and download the contents via the Internet any time they want.
The system's greatest virtue is its diversity of programs. Hanaro says the firm has stashed more than 70,000 programs bought from 200 providers worldwide, available at any time a user wants to watch them. There are movies, TV dramas, documentaries, music videos, cartoons, sports, educational programs, and of course, adult shows for people aged 19 and above.
Both KT and Hanaro are selling packages of broadband Internet, telephone and IP TV services with big discounts.
Coffee With Free Internet
Korea is repeatedly dubbed one of the most wired nations in the world. But when it comes to the wireless field, it is not much better than any other countries _ the coverage is limited, connection is unstable and the charge is absurdly high.
One of the places that guarantee good wireless connection is Starbucks coffee shops. Celebrating Chuseok, KT opened up its Nespot wireless Internet service for free at the American coffee chain from Monday. The promotional event continues through October.
One must sign up as a member on the Web site of either KT, Daum Communications or Starbucks. Once in the cafe, Web browsers will automatically be connected to the Nespot site and members can download an ID and a password for free Internet use of three hours.
``The generation between 25 and 35 say that Starbucks is the best place for surfing the Web,'' said Han Won-sik, marketing executive of KT. ``We want to let them enjoy the Internet from their favorite spot.''
KT also provides Nespot connections at T.G.I. Friday's, Pizza Hut, Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin' Donuts. But the quality of the network differs from store to store.