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Prompted by government policy, KTF embraces Java

KTF is the last of the major South Korean carriers to license Java as required by the Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability.

KTF said Tuesday that it is licensing Java technology for downloading software onto cell phones, a deal prompted by a South Korean government policy.

Created in 2001 to spur the release of cell phone download services, the Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability (WIPI) is one of the first instances of a government telling an industry what software to use.

In 2003, a version of Java for downloading cell phone software like ring tones or games became a core component of WIPI. WIPI required the use of Java for such downloads and disallowed the use of other technology. That brought protest from the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which pressured South Korean telecommunications officials into letting carriers use competing technologies, according to a U.S. trade representative. But even if carriers start using competing technologies, they are still required to use Java also.

KTF is the last of the major South Korean carriers to license Java technology.

The company already uses BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless), a competing technology from Qualcomm. BREW is also used by other major South Korean carriers. Sources say that Qualcomm engineered the change in the WIPI requirements to allow use of BREW.

There is much speculation about what KTF will do now that it has licensed two different kinds of download software. One of its more expensive options is to offer two download services, one based on Java and another based on BREW. This option is the likeliest, Jackson says, because of the investment KTF has already made in BREW equipment.

KTF gave no indication of what it's likely to do in announcements Tuesday concerning the Sun deal. A Qualcomm representative said Qualcomm will continue its current business relationship with KTF, the result of a multiyear contract for its BREW-based wireless application service. The spokesman added that Qualcomm also continues to support the Korean developer community as "they are creating compelling BREW-based applications."

"KTF, a leading carrier in one of the world's most advanced mobile markets, is now part of the Java community," Sun Vice President Alan Brenner said in a statement.

John Jackson, an analyst with The Yankee Group, said that provisions such as WIPI are likely to grow in frequency.

"You are starting to see such a phenomenon making its way into other parts of the world," he said.