Sun shines all over Korea

A new standard forces South Korean cell phone carriers to use Sun Microsystems software. That includes KT Freetel, which currently uses rival software from Qualcomm.

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
2 min read
When it comes to cell phones, South Korea is now officially Java country, and that could be trouble for cell phone chip maker Qualcomm.

The Asian nation's Ministry of Information and Communication last week amended its cell phone standard to include a version of Sun Microsystems? Java software, a Sun representative said Friday.

Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability (WIPI), as the standard is known, was adopted by all of Korea's major carriers in January. The first commercial WIPI services are due by the end of next year.

The Ministry chose Sun's Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME), which hundreds of millions of cell phones now use to download software such as ring tones and games.

While the decision is a victory for Sun, it's a loss for rival Qualcomm, which also makes cell phone downloading software, called Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW), a Sun representative said. BREW and J2ME are incompatible.

In an example of the hit Qualcomm will take, South Korea's KT Freetel (KTF), which is now using BREW exclusively, will be forced to use Sun's J2ME software, the Sun representative said. KTF now has several options, including having two separate download services.

A KTF representative had no comment.

"Our position, from the beginning, continues to be that government should not mandate technology standards; the market should," Qualcomm spokesman Jeremy James said. "One thing to understand is that simply because the Korean government has mandated WIPI, that doesn?t mean carriers have to start using it."

James adds that the carrier has given no indication that it will stop using BREW.