Three Korean mobile carriers will make a full-scale investment this year in facilities for next-generation technologies for 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and GiGA Internet. According to industry sources on Feb. 5, three carriers announced that they will make a nearly 6.5 trillion won (US$6.0 billion) investment in facilities this year during their briefings on results for Q4 2014. SK Telecom is planning to do 2 trillion won (US$1.8 billion), KT 2.7 trillion won (US$2.5 billion), and LG U+ 1.7 trillion won (US$1.5 billion). Although KT’s investment in 2015 is expected to go up 7 percent from the previous year, the number for SKT and LG U+ is a year-on-year decline of 6.8 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
The total investments by the three carriers are projected to decrease this year, as they were around 7 trillion won in the past. The phenomenon is due to the fact that they do not heavily invest in LTE facilities anymore, following a rapid increase in investment over the last four years. In other words, competition between mobile carriers to build LTE networks nationwide, which started in 2011, is coming to an end.
There is now intense competition between global communications equipment suppliers Nokia, Huawei, Ericsson, and Alcatel-Lucent for the national disaster safety communications network project, which will be the first trial of its kind in the world. The winner of the government project of South Korea, which is an IT powerhouse, will be recognized for its technologies. Moreover, major countries like the U.S., the U.K., and Canada are planning to build a disaster safety communications network using Public Safety-LTE (PS-LTE), which was already adopted by Korea. Therefore, the reason for fierce competition seems to lie in the belief that it could be a test-bed for the suppliers’ capabilities in the PS-LTE market, which is still at early stage, to win the order of the Korean project.
According to sources in the government and communications industry on Jan. 25, the national disaster safety communications network project is estimated to be worth 2 trillion won (US$1.85 billion). However, the size of the project is expected to increase to more than 3 trillion won (US$2.8 billion) if 10 year-maintenance costs are included. So competition between global communications equipment suppliers for the project is heating up.
The ministry announced the results of its assessment of the quality of local telecommunications services this year. It was the first year it made assessments for the new long-term evolution (LTE) services.
There are three kinds of LTE services available. Regular LTE is a fourth-generation telecommunication service that offers data flow as fast as 75 megabits per second. LTE-A doubles the speed up to 150 megabits per second by connecting two separate LTE bandwidths. Broadband LTE does the same by widening the bandwidth.
SK Telecom and KT succeeded in launching broadband LTE services by acquiring bandwidth in August next to their existing bandwidth. At an August auction, LG U+ obtained a bandwidth relatively far from its 2.6 Gigahertz and has been building a new network for broadband LTE service. LG U+, the nation’s smallest mobile carrier, was assessed by the ministry to be providing LTE-A service at 43.1 megabits per second for downloading data, slower than the average 47.2. Market leader SK Telecom was fastest at 56.2 megabits per second and KT came in at 50.3 megabits.
Subscribers to the long-term evolution service, the fastest internet broadband, are estimated to have surpassed 50 percent of mobile phone users in Korea. According to the domestic telecommunications industry yesterday, the number of LTE service subscribers at the three major service providers – SK Telecom, KT and LG U+ – stood at 27.35 million out of 54.4 million mobile phone users.
The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, which tracks the country’s information and telecommunications market, has yet to compile data for November. Its October data put LTE subscribers of the three mobile carriers at 26.59 million, or 48.9 percent. An average of 700,000 to 900,000 LTE subscribers are added monthly.
In 1981, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, then a little-known 4-year-old publicly funded think tank, won a 24 billion won ($22.6 million) government project to develop a telephone transmitting and receiving system called time-division exchange (TDX). Most state initiatives at the time – except those to augment the defense against North Korea – were less than 1 billion won, so the institute researchers in charge of the pricey project had to sign a resolution.
“We will do our best to develop TDX, and if we fail, we will brace for any punishment,” read the document, still kept at the Daejeon-based institute. Partly inspired by ambition to succeed, but possibly driven by fear under the military regime of President Chun Doo Hwan, the efforts bore fruit, making Korea the 10th country to develop the system.
“Few believed a nation that lacked experience with large R&D projects could succeed in developing a technology possessed by only a handful of advanced countries,” says Chong Kil-ho, director of ETRI, speaking of the system that allowed calls to be made simultaneously. “We got a lot of confidence from it.”
Building on that confidence, the institute went on to develop several other state-of-the-art technologies, including code division multiple access, which later became a standard of global wireless telecommunication. The institute was the first in the world to develop it and received 350 billion won in royalties from Qualcomm over several years.
Korea is expected to see its fourth mobile telecommunication services provider in March at the earliest, as the government plans to allow a variant of long-term evolution (LTE) technology to cut phone-bill costs and meet growing demand for LTE service. Government officials said the time is ripe for the nation to see its fourth mobile carrier considering the growing popularity of the LTE-enabled services, and Seoul’s recent decision to shift WiBro networks toward LTE-TDD (Time-Division Duplex) ones.
“We have no question the market should get a new telecom service provider for better consumer benefits amid the industry’s shift towards LTE devices,” said an official at the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), Sunday. “The government plans to issue a license to the Korea Mobile Internet (KMI) Consortium to launch a new service with LTE-TDD by early 2014,” the official said.
For the 7 million persons who use the subway to get to work, a fast data network is no small thing. That led the three mobile carriers to take their intense competition underground on their so-called wider broadband long-term evolution (LTE) and LTE-Advanced services.
LTE-A doubles LTE data flow from 75 megabits per second to 150 megabits by connecting two bandwidths, whereas wider broadband LTE doubles data flow by widening a single bandwidth. For subways in the greater Seoul area – including Incheon and parts of Gyeonggi – the nation’s largest carrier, SK Telecom, was found to have built the biggest network for both wider broadband LTE and LTE-A. KT was next, followed by LG U+.
According to Playwares, an electronic devices and telecommunications service review website on Monday, about 88.9 percent of subway stations had wider broadband LTE and LTE-A services, provided by SK Telecom, available in the greater Seoul area. Regular LTE service was available at the rest of stations. The company commercialized the LTE-A technology for the first time in the world in June and launched the wider broadband LTE in September after obtaining extra bandwidth at a government-hosted frequency auction in August.
South Korea’s wireless date traffic jumped at a faster clip in a year as 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service has become widely available. Notably, the share of data traffic through the LTE service surpassed 50 percent of the total.
The total wireless data traffic grew from 29,748 terabytes (TB) in January 2012, 41,985 TB in June to 47,581 TB, according to a recent data released by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. The number went up 196 percent on-year to reach as high as 58,262 TB in January.
The figure includes traffic on the second generation (2G) Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), 3G Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) and 4G LTE, offered by telecom operators. The number excluded data traffic on the WiFi service as it is an option relative to other forms of wireless services.
Long-term evolution (LTE) subscriptions in South Korea have recently topped the 20 million mark, roughly 20 months after the service for the fastest mobile connectivity was commercialized, industry data showed Friday. The combined number of LTE subscribers at the country’s three mobile operators — SK Telecom Co., KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. — has surpassed the 20 million mark as of Wednesday, according to the industry data. By company, LTE subscribers at top mobile carrier SK Telecom were estimated at 9.5 million to 9.6 million as of Wednesday, followed by 5.3 million to 5.4 million at LG Uplus and 5.11 million at KT.
“While the government has not officially announced the data, it seems the country’s LTE subscriptions have passed the 20 million mark as of Wednesday given that SK Telecom claimed 47 percent of the market in February,” said an industry official.
Samsung Electronics’ new flagship smartphone Galaxy S4 will be rolling out in Korea on April 25 following its launch in a number of European countries including the U.K., industry sources said Thursday. With the world’s biggest smartphone maker scheduling its media event on the same day as its roll-out, the new 5-inch Galaxy S4 equipped with octa-core mobile processors will be hitting local shelves in the next three weeks, they said.
The company’s new smartphone was unveiled for the first time in New York on March 14.
The handset released here will feature the upgraded octa-core processor running on the fourth-generation Long Term Evolution network due to specific local demand. The Korean model will be priced in the 900,000 won range. The new processor, designed for smartphones and tablet PCs, supposedly enables its users to carry out heavy-duty multitasking while being more energy efficient.
With the release set for later this month, hopes are rising that the new addition to the Galaxy smartphone lineup will boost sales for the world’s top manufacturer of handsets, TVs and semiconductor chips.