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Report: South Korea is World's Most Developed 3G Market

It may not have been the first market to launch 3G services, but South Korea has become the most advanced market for mobile services in the world, according to a new report released Monday by Strand Consult.

According to the report, The Korean Market for Mobile Services, a window to 3G, despite its first mover status in the 3G marketplace, Japan lags a distant second compared to South Korea.

"South Korean mobile operators, by focusing strongly on revenue sharing, have made it much more attractive to content and service providers to develop and market quality services," Strand said. "This, in turn, has made it more attractive for users to subscribe to these services and to upgrade their 2G terminals. This positive chain reaction has resulted in considerable increase in the number of both content and service providers."

Strand added, "South Korean operators have done what operators in Japan and elsewhere have refused to do. They have accepted their role and responsibility as drivers of the market for mobile services. They have understood that this chain reaction is key to the successful development of the market for 2.5G and 3G mobile services."

Strand conceded that South Korea's CDMA 2000 1X network is technically still a 2.5G network, but said its 144 Kbps transmission speed is sufficient to handle most 3G services, excepting only streaming video, which still requires "pure" 3G technologies like NTT DoCoMo's FOMA network.

While NTT DoCoMo's network is capable of transmitting at speeds of up to 384 Kbps, only about 4 out of every 1000 mobile users in Japan owns a FOMA terminal, Strand said. On the other hand, the consultancy noted, in South Korea 400 out of every 1,000 mobile users owns a 1X terminal.

For instance, SKT, South Korean's largest mobile operator, has already attracted more than 8.8 million subscribers to its CDMA 2000 1X services, about 75 percent of its total customer base.

Additionally, while Japanese operators heavily subsidized FOMA terminals to put them in customer hands, South Korean operators achieved their level of penetration with subsidizing terminals.