Site: Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI)
Yusong P.O. Box 106
Taejon, 305-600, Korea
Date Visited: June 3, 1997
WTEC: J.V. Evans (report author), J. Pelton
The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) is one of about 60 research institutes located at Taejon, Korea's fifth largest city, lying roughly one-third the distance south of Seoul towards Pusan. Of these institutes, about half are funded wholly or in part by the Korean government. ETRI has about 1,700 employees and together with contractors employs a total of about 2,500 people. About 90 people are engaged in satellite-related work. The total budget of ETRI (government funding plus outside contracts) is about $300 million.
ETRI divides its activities into (a) basic research, (b) semiconductors, (c) computers, (d) telecommunications, (e) informatics, and (f) Korean information infrastructure. The work on telecommunications represents about 60% of the whole, while semiconductors and computer technology are each about 10%. The semiconductor work embraces both silicon (ETRI has developed a 64 Mbyte DRAM chip and is working on a 2 Gbyte DRAM) and GaAs chips (including monolithic microwave integrated circuits with feature sizes down to 0.3 Ám). Currently, ETRI is collaborating with the Canadian Communications Research Center (Ottawa) on the development of power amplifier modules for Ka-band earth terminals (at 30 GHz). Earlier Samsung acquired the design from ETRI for S-band (PCS) power chips and is having these fabricated in the United States. Work is also underway on lithium niobate optical switches.
Perhaps ETRI's largest contribution to telecommunications in Korea has been to develop switches and software for the CDMA cellular system selected by Korea for its second generation (digital) cellular system. This is now in operation in the Seoul area with more than one million subscribers. ETRI also redesigned the base station channel units to reduce its cost (via creative use of VLSI circuits).
Communications satellite research began at ETRI to support the development of ground-based terminals that would utilize Koreasat-1 (launched August 1995) and Koreasat-2 (January 1996). Demand-assigned, single-channel-per-carrier (DAMA/SCPC) and very small aperture terminal (VSAT) systems were developed and commercialized by Daewoo Telecommunications Ltd. and Hyundai Electronics Co., respectively, but currently these are said to be not price competitive with those imported from the United States..
ETRI has also been collaborating with LGIC and MPR Teltech Ltd. in developing a compressed video system for digitally broadcasting television (DBS) using the MPEG-2 standard. The system, which was completed in 1995, has been undergoing test by KBS since July 1996. Meanwhile, seven Korean companies have completed the development of the receiver, to interface specifications provided by ETRI. Current attention is focused on a system for HDTV transmission (probably based on the U.S. "grand alliance" standard) which the Koreans hope to have in place for the World Cup (soccer) in 2002.
Other research areas include antennas for mobile satellite communications, studies on the provision of multimedia services via satellite broadcasting, phased-array antenna technology, and onboard processing.
While Korea Telecom is ETRI's largest sponsor in the field of satellite research, the Ministry of Science and Technology is also providing support for the development by ETRI (along with Hyundai Space and Aircraft Company and Daewoo Heavy Industries, Ltd.) of the TT&C and mission control facilities of the Korean earth-resources satellite KOMPSAT, due to be launched in July 1999.
While perhaps not on the same scale, ETRI must be regarded as the "Bell Labs" of Korea and it is actively engaged in all areas of communications and information research—ranging from basic research into the properties of materials, through device work, to systems and economic analyses. Its support is partially government and partially via contracts with commercial sponsors. The latter provides a vehicle for ensuring collaboration with industry, though the transfer of technology to industry can also occur through outright sale of ETRI-developed products. While, thus far, ETRI has had only limited impact on the Koreasat program, this is likely to change as the use of satellites for digital broadcasting of TV (and later HDTV) becomes important, and the distribution of multimedia via satellite commences. ETRI is a member of various standards-setting bodies and, as such, is likely to be the agent in Korea that can ensure the smooth integration of satellite-delivered and terrestrially-based services (e.g., ATM).