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Mobile Broadcast to Revolutionize Daily Lives
Jan. 10, 2005 will go down in history as the day to phase in the world`s first cell phone-based mobile broadcasting in Korea.
TU Media, the affiliate of the nation`s top mobile operator SK Telecom, will begin to test-run the satellite digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB) across the nation on Monday.
``Before the full-fledged commercial launch slated for May, trend-sensitive early adoptors will be able to savor the mobility-specific TV services through our four-month pilot run,`` TU Media spokesman Heo Jae-young said.
Satellite DMB enables people on the go to savor crystal-clear video, theater-quality audio and data through handheld devices like handsets or in-car terminals.
Those who snap up DMB phones, Samsung Electronics` SCH-B100 model, can enjoy three video and six audio channels without any charges over the trial period until May.
Three video channels will feature news (YTN), music (M-Net of CJ Media) and drama (SBS and MBC) while six audio channels will include various kinds of music programs.
SCH-B100, which will hit the stands today in line with the DMB debut, will sell at around 850,000 won via SK Telecom.
The gadget is armed with a 2.2-inch display,a megapixel camera and MP3 playing function and its low power-consumption battery allows people to watch video for two and a half hours.
In particular, the interner monitor of the high-end gizmo can be tilted horizontally to enable users to watch graphics through a TV-like wide display.
``Although only one DMB phone is available at the moment, several more models will be released before the commercial services start in May,`` Heo said.
On top of Samsung Electronics, he added LG Electronics and SK Teletech are also developing DMB phones which will be provided to the nation`s three mobile carriers in coming months.
In time with the commercial DMB services in May, TU Media will increase video channels to 14 and audio to 24 while three data broadcasts will be added from next year.
Thereafter, the free lunch will be over and people should pay a one-off subscription fee of 20,000 won and a monthly usage fee of 13,000 won for the mobile broadcasting.
TU Media aims at attracting up to 600,000 subscribers this year and 5.6 million by 2010. Toward that end, the firm plans to invest roughly 705 billion won over the next five years.
Brief History of DMB
In an attempt to foster its next-generation growth engine other than voice calls, SK Telecom began to focus on mobile broadcasting in 2001 and forged ahead with the project both locally and globally.
At home it set up its subsidiary TU Media in 2001 and created a consortium two years later consisting of about 200 local companies like contents providers, handset makers and financial service entities.
SK Telecom also joined hands with its Japanese counterpart Mobile Broadcasting Corp. (MBCo) and they jointly blasted off MBSat, the satellite for the DMB services, in March.
While TU Media was locked in Korea`s time-consuming bureaucratic processures, MBCo embarked on the world`s first DMB services in October thanks to full operation with the government.
Yet, Japan betted on in-car terminals and the strategy appeared not to work as just 10,000 users have signed up for it until now.
In comparison, Korea established the direction of offering broadcasting on cell phones after the country`s flagship handset makers each developed DMB phones as early as last May.
To cover shadow areas like subway or in-building places under the handset-focused tactics, TU Media installed a total of 4,800 gap fillers or relay device.
The repercussions of DMB services on the Korean economy is expected to be colossal.
The Korean Society for Journalism and Communication Studies expected that the offerings will generate 9 trillion won in industrial production until 2012.
En route to the eventual success, however, there remain some headwinds like the retransmission of terrestrial broadcasting and handset subsidies.
Wary of losing their foothold in the local market, terrestrial broadcasters are now refusing to retransmit their over-the-air programs via the DMb services.
Furthermore, the high price of DMB phones need to go down to entice target students and other young customers, who are typically budget-sensitive.
A viable option is to allow subsidies but the possibility is uncertain since Korea strictly bans financial incentives to new phone buyers with very few exceptions.