KOREA: Satellite DMB launched on Busan subway lines

Competition between satellite and terrestrial DMB heats up as Korea's lone satellite DMB operator launches its own rapid-speed train service

Korea Herald
Friday, May 26, 2006

By Hwang Si-young

Busan --- TU Media Corp. began a satellite digital multimedia broadcasting service on Busan subway lines yesterday.
The country's lone satellite DMB operator also began to offer the service on the Seoul-Busan bullet train line, or KTX.

The company yesterday celebrated the service's underground launch at Yonsan-dong subway station in the country's second-largest city, with Busan Transportation Corp. president Kim Ku-hyun, acting Busan city mayor Lee Kweon-sang, and TU Media president Seo Young-kil in attendance.

SDMB is Korea's mobile television standard, designed to beam digital television, audio and data broadcasts -- including dramas, sports, movies, games and animations -- to handheld devices via satellite signals. With a monthly fixed rate of 13,000 won ($13.30), subscribers can enjoy 12 video and 36 audio channels.

The paid service has been available in downtown Busan and on the city's outskirts for the past one year, and this time TU Media expanded its coverage to the city's underground.

Consumers can now watch seamless, high-definition mobile television programs in underground and rapid trains moving at up to 300 km per hour.

Currently, there are 31 SDBM-capable handheld devices available in the market -- 27 handsets, one portable multimedia player, one personal digital assistant and two SDMB-only terminals.

TU Media has invested 11 billion won since April to offer the service in underground areas.

To facilitate the receiving of DMB airwaves, TU Media set up 530 gap fillers, or broadcast signal relay equipment in shadow areas on subway lines No. 1-3 in Busan.

There is, however, remaining work to be done, such as technical checks, the company said.

TU Media has 585,000 SDMB subscribers with a nationwide coverage.

It has 40,000-50,000 SDMB subscribers in Busan, or 10 percent of the city's population.

"We aim to have 1.2 million subscribers across the country by the year-end, by gradually expanding the service in major cities across the country. Considering what we have done so far, I believe it's a realistic goal," TU Media president and CEO Seo Young-kil told reporters yesterday.

"I like the SDMB service because I can watch my favorite landline TV programs, even after I missed them, while I wait for the bus," said Cho Hyung-rae, 19-year-old Busan citizen.

Consumers, however, expressed disappointment about the service's pricing. They say the paid service will reap success if the operator halves the monthly subscription fee.