KOREA: Terrestrial-DMB adds color to Korean lifestyle

Wide range of portable electronics increasingly use T-DMB technology

The Korea Times
Sunday, February 12, 2006

By Cho Jin-seo

Terrestrial digital multimedia broadcasting (T-DMB) is becoming not only the industrial standard for mobile TV service but also part of daily life for South Koreans.

Various types of portable digital gadgets such as mobile phones, personal data assistants (PDAs), portable multimedia players (PMPs) and even PCs are increasingly adopting the T-DMB feature as it is an open technology that neither manufacturers nor consumers pay to use.

"T-DMB phones are the hottest sellers these days," said Kim Yong-jin, store manager of LK Electronics, a mobile phone retailer at Yongsan electronics market in Seoul. "It is particularly popular in the Kangnam (southern Seoul) area. About 50 percent of handsets sold in the area are DMB phones."

Kim says that T-DMB is much more popular than its competitor satellite DMB (S-DMB), because the former is free of charge while the latter is 13,000 won per month. Also, T-DMB provides live TV content from three major broadcasters - KBS, MBC and SBS - free of charge, which is not available on S-DMB.

So far, there are 20 channels available on T-DMB - 13 audio stations and 7 video channels including the three major TV stations KBS, MBC and SBS. The DMB channels are currently composed of live broadcasting and reruns of sports, soap operas, entertainment programs of the three existing terrestrial TV stations. But more DMB-tailored services are expected to be available this year as the content sellers rate this market highly.

"You can see people don't read books and newspapers in the subway when there are TV screens in the car," said Ra Ye-ryong, executive of Millim.com, a leading company that sells songs and ring tones for mobile phones.

"Imagine what will happen if DMB becomes available in the subway. I guess not many will prefer reading books and newspapers to watching TV in their hands."

T-DMB began its service last month in Seoul and the nearby Kyonggi Province, a world first, and it will become available in the subway from summer if all goes to plan.

Two mobile service operators LG Telecom and KTF also say that the TV-on-move phone sales are rising at an impressive rate. Daily sales of the T-DMB handsets have increased from around 300 per day in early January to around 700 in late January for both companies.

The T-DMB phones are expected to become more common when SK Telecom, the nation's largest mobile career, joins the two others in a few months. Currently, SK Telecom is not supporting a T-DMB service. But on Sunday, it said that it is planning to service it in the "very near future," according to a company spokesman, supporting industry forecasts that the number of T-DMB subscribers will exceed 1 million at the end of this year.

As well as mobile phones, other electronics appliance makers are also aggressively trying to take advantage of the T-DMB feature to expand their sales.

LG Electronics last week said that it sold more than 13,000 units of its T-DMB-featured PDA model PM80 in the last two months. Before the introduction of PM80, the PDA market in South Korea was only around 6,000 per month. LG and Samsung Electronics both have introduced T-DMB-embedded laptops since last month.

Smaller companies such as Cobalt Technology are also benefiting from the new technology. The firm makes detachable DMB receivers for PCs and laptops, which is about the size of a disposable lighter and can be connected into USB port of PCs. The company said it has sold 8,000 units last month, almost exceeding its manufacturing capacity.