Mobile Carriers Asked to Share Internet Platform

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By Cho Jin-seo
Staff Reporter
The government is pushing three mobile carriers to open up their mobile Internet network to outside firms to help create a wireless network as efficient and popular as the World Wide Web. The communication committee of the Ministry of Information and Communication will decide Monday on the punishment for mobile service providers, which violate its rules. The companies are being criticized for limiting users' access to their own portal sites, technically blocking them from visiting other firms' portal sites. They are also blamed for not publicizing technical information, preventing smaller firms from setting up their own sites on the network. Currently, the three mobile carriers _ SK Telecom, KTF and LG Telecom _ require their subscribers to access the mobile network by visiting their respective mobile Internet portals _ Nate, Magic-N and eZ-I. They also charge high fees to outside mobile contents providers, such as game developers or ring tone sellers, for using their portal sites as gateways. Moreover, communications on the mobile network have generally been only one-way, as individuals do not have their private spaces, such as homepages or blogs, while companies are focused on selling their services to customers. Ahead of the committee's meeting, a ministry official told reporters that the mobile carriers are partially responsible for the low growth of the market. He also said the mobile Internet service has the potential to become like the World Wide Web, considering there are 35 million mobile-phone users in South Korea. The mobile Internet network uses Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) to transmit data between mobile phones and servers. Cell phones cannot directly show World Wide Web sites designed for personal computers, since the WAP uses a different programming language from the Web's HTML. The lack of openness to outside firms and a lack of interoperability with the Web led WAP to be widely dubbed as ``Worthless Application Protocol'' and ``Wait And Pay.'' The government first made the rules on the openness of the mobile network in 2000, but this will be the first time it has imposed penalties on the mobile companies for violating them. However, even if the companies follow the government's instruction to share their mobile Internet network with outside companies, there are more obstacles ahead for the mobile Internet service. Given the difficulty in typing Internet addresses and commands on a mobile handsets' narrow keyboard, users often give up going outside of the portals. Also, the size of the mobile handsets makes it difficult for program developers to transplant Web contents to the phone's small screen.

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