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Korea settles wireless Internet platform with US

SEOUL - South Korea said on Friday that it has reached a settlement with the United States over a locally developed wireless Internet platform opposed by Qualcomm Inc, pre-empting a possible trade row.

During two-day negotiations ending on Thursday in Washington, the South Korean government and the US Trade Representative agreed that a single, local-made standard WIPI, or wireless Internet platform for interoperability, technology will be adopted for all new mobile phones in South Korea, officials of the Ministry of Information and Communication said in a press briefing.

"The two countries have agreed that all cell phones in South Korea should comply with the WIPI platform," Kim Maeng-ho, a ministry official, said.

The move by the South Korean government was met with harsh opposition from Qualcomm, a US wireless chip maker that sells another wireless Internet software called BREW, or binary runtime environment for wireless.

Kim said Qualcomm may modify its wireless Internet platform to work with the WIPI technology.

Qualcomm has said the mandatory use of a South Korean government-sponsored WIPI platform could infringe upon fair trade rules. And the US government had backed Qualcomm's position.

Qualcomm, which has the core patents of code division multiple access (CDMA) technology, the second-most widely used mobile phone standard globally, is hoping with its BREW platform to expand its market share in South Korea, which has one of the world's fastest cell phone networks.

Currently, South Korea's three mobile phone operators have separate wireless Internet standards, which are required for mobile phones to download mobile applications such as ring tones or games.

The South Korean government said the single standard is necessary to promote the compatibility of wireless applications among the three mobile phone networks.

Recently, Qualcomm, which derives revenues from South Korean handset makers in the form of CDMA royalties, has faced a hostile campaign from the domestic firms because of what they perceive as unfavorable royalty treatment vis-a-vis that given to Chinese companies.

Qualcomm's South Korean offices couldn't be reached for comment.

(Asia Pulse/Yonhap)

Apr 24, 2004


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