updated 09:05 pm EDT, Thu September 11, 2008
iPhone Korea delayed
South Korean customers anticipating the iPhone launch in their country will be disappointed to hear that the popular device will be delayed, according to the Korea Times. Significant hurdles for the launch have been regulations designed to protect Korean produced handset manufacturers from foreign competition. Apple has been negotiating with KTF, the second largest wireless carrier there, regarding a launch of the 3G phone.
South Korean regulations require support for its Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability (WIPI) middleware. For companies like Apple, redesigning the phone to conform with this standard is not an inexpensive or attractive option. Nokia and RIM have had similar problems introducing products there, with no luck influencing the regulators to ease restrictions.
The Korean Communications Commission has been under fire for the regulations, even from entities within its own borders. Consumers feel that the restrictions limit their choices, while the wireless providers have echoed a similar viewpoint, pushing to diversify their inventories.
The KCC claimed it has been reconsidering the issue, however any action has been uncertain and slow. "We can't make exceptions for foreign handset makers forever," said a member of the KCC, "the scrapping of the WIPI requirements is too big of a decision to make a quick judgment. It will definitely take more than one meeting."
There are a few companies with a vested interest in protecting WIPI regulations, Samsung and LG. Both are Korean manufacturers that hold a combined domestic handset market share of 90 percent. LG Telecom, although not a power player in the carrier market there, has naturally supported the current rules.
Even if the regulations were completely overhauled tomorrow, the iPhone still won't be available for the holidays. "Even after a deal is inked, the network interoperability tests will take about two or three months and there is also the process of enabling KTF's existing mobile-phone applications to work on iPhones," said a KTF representative, "It would be virtually impossible to release the handsets earlier than early next year."