Accelerating ideas for faster broadband
After leading a recent DTI Global Watch Mission, Antony Walker, Director of Intellect and Chief Executive of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, talks about the team's findings.
The determination of both South Korea and Japan to lead the world in next-generation broadband innovation and implementation is accelerating novel content, applications and services.
Broadband connections are becoming faster in the UK - some operators are offering 10Mbit/s services and a few offer 20Mbit/s.
Japan and South Korea already have fast broadband services - in excess of 10Mbit/s - and are moving towards deployment of fibre-optic services to the home (FTTH) which offer speeds of around 100Mbit/s.
It is important that the UK understands what is driving this investment in next-generation access infrastructure and what impact it is having on the market.
South Korea has positioned itself as the world's "first IT test-bed".
The idea is that large companies like Samsung and LG test new technology on the domestic market before exporting globally to secure the country's economic growth.
This very deliberate policy is accelerating adoption of broadband - more than 70% of the population is connected - and the commercialisation process, which is pushing through some really different types of services.
It was very interesting to see how business models from the games industry are moving into other areas of content.
The new service that everyone is talking about is Cyworld - a community-based social networking service that enables people to create their own online space and decorate their "rooms" with digital furniture, art, televisions and music.
The idea is to make your space as cool as possible to entertain your friends and make new buddies.
The service makes money by selling items that users use to customise their rooms and their personal "avatars".
The service is delivering significant monthly revenues - everyone we met on the mission has used Cyworld - and it has been reported that 90% of South Koreans in their twenties are users.
Owned by SK Telecom, Cyworld was launched in Japan during our week there and will be moving to China and the USA later in the year.
Japan has moved on from its e-Japan strategy of the last five years to u-Japan - "ubiquitous network Japan".
It is looking to a world of fixed/wireless converged networks where people can be constantly connected - and it is looking to use this technology to address key social and economic issues such as an ageing population and natural disasters.
This focus has determined a need for very high access networks and very high take-up - an ambitious target of 30 million FTTH subscribers by 2010 has been set.
Not surprisingly, concepts coming out of the industry are very focused on the needs of the user and service providers are jockeying to put together compelling new services as the pace of convergence picks up.
One of the big battlefields is IPTV - television services delivered over the internet.
Although IPTV is expected to be a major growth area, revolutionising advertising models and the way TV-type programming is delivered, innovation and deployment are being held up by uncertainty about how these new services will be regulated.
Nippon TV showed us its model for what IPTV might look like.
In response to the problem of finding what you are looking for in a world with access to a large range of programming, Nippon TV has devised an animated "games-style" interface.
Based on the idea of a 1950s shopping arcade, users "walk" through arcades chosen according to their mood.
It's a world away from the traditional website and a very impressive way of engaging with the user in this kind of space.
The mission was co-ordinated by Intellect, supported by the Broadband Stakeholder Group and the Mobile Data Association.
DTI International Technology Promoter Phillip White was part of the mission team, as were representatives from BBC New Media, Global Village, O2 and the University of Surrey.
In South Korea visits were made to Hanaro Telecom, KISDI, Korea Telecom, Ovum Korea, Ministry of Information and Communications, Nexon and SK Telecom.
In Japan the team visited DCAJ, Dentsu, KDDI, METI, Namco, NHK, Nihon TV, NTT, Sony and WAO Creative College.
This article is based on one that originally appeared in Global Watch, the monthly magazine of the DTI Global Watch Service.
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