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In the beginning (KOR)

Sept 10,2019
PARK TAE-HEE
The author is an industry team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

In the beginning was the Word, and then there were more. Communications experts say there were electromagnetic waves. Charges in space and around objects create waves that propagated when they met magnetic fields, and the phenomenon started at the moment of the creation of heaven and earth.

As it was discovered that electromagnetic waves move at the speed of light, and each wave has a different vibration, communications technology developed dramatically. In the industry, Korea is considered an undisputed leader. The state of communications services in the top communications country can be affirmed when you ride the subway in other countries. It is uncommon to enjoy smooth voice calls, data transmission and video streaming in a subway running at 70 to 80 kilometers (43 to 50 miles) per hour anywhere in the world. London underground does not have a wireless signal. The United States competed against Korea for the first 5G service, but it takes patience to get a 3G or 4G signal while riding the New York subway.

But there is a field that has not been perfected in Korea — Wi-Fi service on a subway. It is still impossible to use a smartphone on Wi-Fi alone on a subway train, rather than a data network such as 3G or LTE. Not only is it technically challenging but also requires major investment.

To enable Wi-Fi services on the subway, Wi-Fi devices need to be installed closely along the subway tunnels. The problem is that waves propagate straight. The Wi-Fi signal from devices installed on pillars and walls of the tunnel would move along the tunnel, only to hit the wall soon. Communications experts say that Wi-Fi devices need to be installed 100 to 150 meters apart from each other along the tunnels. Tightly spaced installation won’t necessarily guarantee better service. The device will constantly have to switch to another network. Wi-Fi installations can only be done during the early morning hours when the subway is not running, so labor cost will be significant.

President Moon Jae-in and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon made the expansion of public Wi-Fi service one of their campaign promises, which includes subway and bus Wi-Fi services. If the promises were smoothly executed, a new chapter would have been written in the communications history for Korea and the world.

But the project led to controversies from the beginning. The company in which the so-called Cho Kuk fund and its manager Colink PE invested in won a Seoul metro public Wi-Fi project without a communications-provider qualification. The company’s mother company won the Wi-Fi project for buses in Seoul. I find more than one thing doubtful. The book that says “In the beginning was the Word” countlessly repeats that sin has a price.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 9, Page 28