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SEK2006 This month, South Korea will start commercial roll-out of WiBro - the Korean name for WiMAX - and enough of it is up and running for journalists to get a demo.

Four areas of Seoul will get coverage first - Gangnam, Seocho, Songpa and Shinchon - the university district. One satellite town, Bundang, and the roads and subway into Seoul will also get coverage.

Initially the service will be accessible via PDA or a card in your laptop, but is expected to be built in to laptops by year end. Korea is promoting the technology as a way for western Europe and the US to speed convergence and as an affordable way for eastern European, south American and African countries to quickly build a combined telco and internet infrastructure.

The demonstration vehicle looks like a rock band's dark blue tour bus from the outside, complete with darkened windows. On the inside it is pure James Bond baddie with shiny ivory-coloured seats and a white interior. Each seat has a table equiped with a flat screen, a PDA ,or a internet-ready mobile phone.

We wear wireless headsets to get over the problem of engine noise. The bus does manage to find a street empty enough of traffic so we can get up a decent speed. We are then treated to a three-way video conference between the bus, a gent in Queensland, Australia, and a woman at Seoul University.

It all works pretty well and we get the chance to access the internet while bouncing around the roads of Seoul. Admittedly, this does make pen interaction with a PDA a little tricky and Seoul's roads are better, if more crowded, than most.

More on WiBro here. ®

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