U.S., South Korea reach agreement on wireless standard

The U.S. and South Korean governments have reached an agreement that will allow U.S. wireless vendors to market their products in South Korea and use a Korean Web downloading standard.

In the last two year, South Korea has moved toward a mandated standard called Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability (WIPI) for downloading content from the Internet onto cell phones.The agreement, announced Friday by U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Zoellick, gives U.S. wireless equipment makers access to the WIPI standard, which makes use of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java 2 Micro Edition.

The mandate shut out competing download technologies from Qualcomm Inc., with which the USTR office sided in the dispute. Under the agreement announced Friday, Qualcomm can use the WIPI standard. A Qualcomm representative did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment, and a Sun spokeswoman said her company had no comment.

"Based on the deal we reached with Korea, American telecommunications companies can now be assured of unimpeded access to this important market," Zoellick said in a statement. "American businesses and workers will continue to provide cutting-edge products and services to the growing Asian market. It's wrong for countries to mandate exclusive standards that have the effect of shutting us out."

Zoellick's office said it hopes that resolution of this issue can provide momentum for resolution of another telecommunications standards issue: Korea's plan to mandate an exclusive domestic transmission standard for portable broadband wireless Internet.

The agreement between the U.S. and South Korea follows an agreement the USTR office negotiated with China over a wireless encryption standard the country was set to mandate in June. On Wednesday, the USTR announced that China had agreed to suspend indefinitely its proposed proprietary national encryption standard for wireless LANs. China also agreed to adopt a policy of technology neutrality for licensing new cellular services.

The U.S. government negotiated "a number of key trade successes" this week, Zoellick noted.

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