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Young executive builds the gate to wireless Internet

Posted: 12 Feb 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless internet? witnet? ttl? wap? telecom?

Lee Hwan-Sup is chief technology officer of WITNET Co. Ltd
Lee Hwan-Sup, chief technology officer of WITNET Co. Ltda Korean company specializing on software R&D and solutions for wireless Internet productsis a very strategic, meticulous person. Known for his pioneering efforts at wireless Internet solutions in Korea, he strikes one as a simple and sincere man guided by his vision for wireless Internet in his country.

The 33-year-old executive majored in Mathematics but jumped into the wireless Internet world, not because it was a profitable area, but because he was attracted by its appealing nature. "It's still quite interesting to me. What I find appealing is that the application is not a PC, but a new device like a mobile phone or PDA," he explained. "I wasn't interested in developing a technology that will not be accepted by many people. I wanted to have my solution and programs built on wideband infrastructure and to share the information with those who are interested in wireless Internet."

Shortly after graduating from college, he went to graduate school in Hanyang University, majoring in Applied Statistics. There, he was exposed to programming courses such as C/C++, which fueled his interest in network programming. "I liked Statistics because it was more applicable to the real world. I then became interested in wireless Internet."

In search of greener fields

Lee first encountered wireless Internet in the summer of 1999 when the wireless Internet market hardly had any players. Lee had joined Daesang Information Technology, the affiliated company of Daesang Group, soon after completing his graduate studies. Daesang Information Technology was the leading company in the wireless Internet arena. It opened the first local wireless Internet technology information site in January 2000.

Lee later left Daesang to concentrate on greater opportunities in the field. "Daesang Information Technology is a system integrator company and has many businesses in the area, but of limited reach. It was difficult for me to stay focused on wireless Internet R&D," said Lee.

"After I quit, I went to the United States and I had time to reflect on what I really wanted to do in this area and to review the knowledge I got from my experience in network programming," he added.

Lee then participated in the platform development of large companies like SK Telecom Ltd (SKT) and LG Telecom Ltd (LGT), now leading the industry in this area. He had the chance to participate in projects like the n-Top, Transistor-to-Transistor Logic (TTL), wired and wireless club community development projects of SKT; M-Commerce service platform development project of Korea Telecom; and the IMT-2000 Java game server development project, during which time he first encountered WAP. Rich R&D experience became the foundation of his knowledge and skill in this area. He now has become one of the widely sought technological consultants and trainers in these companies.

When Lee jumped into the wireless Internet world, many people did not understand yet what wireless Internet was all about. "At that time, it was new area, so many people just showed little interest. But after getting media mileage, the positive response increased," he recalled. He joined Seoul-based WITNET only in the middle of last year.

Fast-changing market requires creativity

Today, the speed with which the global wireless Internet market changes is beyond what one can imagine. According to Gallop Korea and BESTCite Inc., about 15 percent of mobile phone subscribers in Korea use wireless Internet (May 2000).

The wireless Internet market is still at its early stage, but is now becoming the prominent next-generation player fueled by a growing marketthe number of subscribers who possessed terminal supporting wireless Internet reached over 72.2 percent in August last yearand booming content development. It is expected that many wireless Internet skills, standards and services will appear on the market and compete with each other beginning this year.

However, Lee is not too optimistic about the future of the domestic wireless market. "Currently, we are lacking in creativity, compared with Japan," he pointed out. According to him, more creative and value-added content is needed to propel the future of wireless Internet. He emphasized that content designed only for fun would not assure competency and profitability.

During a recent meeting held by the Ministry of Information and Telecommunication, Lee said the lack of fundamental technology was discussed seriously. He also realized this reality and wished to take on the challenge. "I still dream of developing a technology that would drive Korea to the leading position in wireless Internet."

Lee said that several companies have accomplished developing proprietary technology and platform but are still short of sufficient investment. He added that the lack of expertise, as well as resources, was the most difficult problem he met at the initial stage. "Today, many companies exist in the market and it's not very difficult to find experts. But in the past, people did not know this area well. As for me, I chose to train my people rather than calling in external experts. Reaping the fruit from training my own staff was my managing philosophy."

Building community

Lee also said he realized the importance of establishing a network with the community. "Wireless Internet products can be developed by emulators but eventually the full service should be checked through terminals," he explained. "If we can't get acceptable results at this step, we have to repeat the rework and debugging. Getting related expertise was the biggest obstacle.

"That made me think that sharing information and experience through a developer's community is very important. I hope to start such a network. I will exert my best effort in establishing the environment in which this network can grow and become rich," he said.

Lee, who introduces himself as a wireless Internet missionary, is now busy with his lecture schedule. He goes everywhere he is needed, even though he has limited time due to his current job as CTO of WITNET. "Above all, I wish to share my knowledge and skill with those who have interest in wireless Internet. I want to show them what wireless Internet is, and why it is beneficial to all."

He also admitted to an interest in RF applications, mobile-phone related hardware and software. He stated his dream simply, "I hope to extend benefits to many people by developing technology and solutions they most need. And I wish to talk about programs and solutions with them."

? Chun Dong Seop

Electronic Engineering Times Korea

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