Page 3: On the Hot Seat with KTF’s Byungki Oh

FierceWireless: What advice do you have for companies looking to launch innovative applications, services or handsets in the wireless space?

Oh: You don't really have to reinvent the whole thing. Just use what has been successful and apply it to mobile and it will become successful. Most handsets have user interfaces that are inconvenient and displays that are very small. There's also the issue of the high cost for using the network for mobile applications. These are some of the issues that innovative companies need to overcome. How a new company helps overcome those things will determine how successful it is. I think that Apple with the iPhone made applications that have already been proven popular in the fixed Internet and just moved them to the mobile environment. Apple used a larger screen, Google maps and other key applications that have been popular to make the device popular… Remember, the mobile device can do anything. It's up to the application developers.

FierceWireless: Since you mentioned the iPhone—it has been a very disruptive element in the U.S. wireless industry. Do you think the iPhone or a Google- branded phone will be as disruptive in Korea?

Oh yes. They will be to a certain extent. There are limits, though. In the U.S. there is “iPod mania” where Apple fanatics will buy anything the company puts out. But Koreans are all early-adopters so this mania is not here. Recent articles suggest that KTF is the best candidate for getting the iPhone in Korea. We didn’t say it, but they said we are the best candidate because Apple wants to put the iPhone in a competitive environment. So far, the iPhone has been successful.

As for the Google Phone, well, it will depend on what this device looks like. If the device does not look attractive, it will not succeed. But—nothing competes with free. So if Google says “free phones for everybody” by putting ads on the phones, then it might be more successful. But there are many foreign phones from foreign makers coming to Korea that do not succeed. And the reason is they cannot keep up with the local phone makers and the local demand. Samsung and LG put out new phones nearly every month, so [Apple and Google] would have to meet the local pace. My view is that iPhone will make some impact and Google phone—well, I will have to see.

FierceWireless: It seems as if mobile banking, mobile TV, mobile music and pretty much everything works to some extent in Korea. Are there any types of applications or services that don't work?

Oh: VoiceSMS in Malaysia is successful. But in Korea, it's not doing as well. VoiceSMS is when you send voice as a push voicemail, not a pulled voicemail. That doesn't mean we won’t keep on trying, though.

KT Freetel is affiliated with the Mobile Innovation Program Summit Nov. 12-15 in Macau. Click here for more information on the GSMA Mobile Innovation Awards.
Page 3: On the Hot Seat with KTF’s Byungki Oh