IoT tops Korea’s telecom firms’ new agenda

The three local mobile carriers are diversifying their business portfolios amid saturation of the domestic mobile telecom market.

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus are likely to strengthen their focus on the Internet of Things (IoT), one of the major new growth engines for the telecom industry. SK Telecom, the nation’s largest mobile carrier, said it is looking to three new businesses ― media, healthcare and business-to-business (B2B) including the IoT ― in the coming years.

KT, the nation’s largest fixed-line operator, plans to continue its five key new businesses ― smart energy, integrated security systems, media, healthcare and intelligent traffic control. Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu pledged to foster the five segments.

LG Uplus, the nation’s smallest telecom firm, said it will expand its effort to take the next step from its existing telecom businesses. In an end of year press conference on Dec. 5, Vice Chairman Lee Sang-chul emphasized that “now is the tipping point to cope with the biggest changes the world’s information and communication technology industry has seen so far.”

For full article, see Korea Times.

Korea opens traffic big data for commercialisation

An ICT-based advanced traffic infrastructure forum, in which the government and industries are participating, was officially launched for the first time in Korea. Various kinds of traffic big data, owned by the National Police Agency, etc.,will be opened to the private sector, creating a new industry.

Government agencies like the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning, and industries including Hyundai Motor Company, SK Telecom, S-1 and the General Insurance Association of Korea, are participating in the ‘advanced traffic infrastructure forum.’ The foundation ceremony and the MOU signing ceremony were held at the K Hotel on December 9. The forum will combine ideas in the private sector with the public IT infrastructure in line with the creative economy and the government 3.0 policy, and create a new market.

The forum will have four subcommittees for technology utilization, traffic safety, social safety and policy development. The technology utilization subcommittee will find ways to develop and utilize various services based on the Urban Traffic Information System (UTIS, http://www.utis.go.kr/), which was implemented and operated by the National Police Agency. Representative examples are the digital tachograph (DTG) data automatic transmission system, customer management service based on automatic transmission of vehicle diagnosis data, the logistics management system for various commercial vehicles including vehicles carrying hazardous materials, automatic update of maps and black box image transmission, mobile communication networks and UTIS bundled products.

For full article, see Korea IT News.

Government reports use of atteul phones soars

2014_01_thrifty_phoneThe Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning said yesterday the number of altteul, or thrifty, phones in use nearly doubled in a year to 2.48 million as of Dec. 31. Thrifty phones now account for 4.55 percent of the mobile phone market. The altteul phone service (MVNO) provides affordable mobile communications services by borrowing radio wave spectrums from conventional mobile networks.

The growth in altteul subscribers was most pronounced in the fourth quarter, when the thrifty smartphones started selling at post offices and at E-Mart.The 12 altteul phone businesses that provide service by borrowing from KT’s network had 1.165 million subscribers, while the nine operators borrowing from SK Telecom attracted 1.036. Seven businesses that borrowed from LG U+ had 280,000.

However, the highest growth rate of 162 percent was seen in SK affiliates, which went from 394,000 subscribers to 11.036 million. This was followed by 77 percent for KT affiliates, from 657,000 to 1.165 million, and 29 percent for LG U+ affiliates, which saw subscribers rise from 215,000 to 280,000. Meanwhile, revenue for altteul phone operators for 2013 shot up 107 percent form 119 billion won ($111.9 million) in 2012 to 247.4 billion won last year. Sales of altteul phone devices were 378.3 billion won in 2013.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

Government gauges LTE networks’ speeds

2013_12_LTEspeedThe 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.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

Korea moving too fast toward LTE

Local mobile carriers are aggressively expanding their long-term evolution (LTE) networks but this is raising concern among some observers that Korea maybe going a little too fast and could lose money and isolate itself technology-wise. SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus have poured trillions of won in building additional radio stations and access points for LTE across the country since 2011.

No country has a higher penetration of the fourth-generation (4G) network than Korea, though the United States and China obviously have a higher number of subscribers. Over 60 percent of smartphone owners in Korea use LTE, which amounts to 16 million people, according to local analysts. Korea is the only country embracing LTE technology at this rate. The U.S. and China still widely use 2G and 3G connections. In Europe, the LTE market is just blossoming, and developing nations are still in the process of transitioning.

For full article, see Korea Times.

IT-auto convergence unhinged

Mobile operators are frustrated with automobile firms for being slow in adopting converged services in cars. SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus have vowed since early 2008 to make what they call smart cars that use information technology for both public and private vehicles.

The three carriers have already signed agreements with car makers for mutual cooperation. But a truly dynamic service that combines their capabilities is yet to surface due to automobile companies’ sluggishness and domineering attitude, said officials from the carriers. SK Telecom and KT are partnered up with Kia Motor and Hyundai Motors respectively, while LG Uplus has signed pacts with multiple small- and medium-sized firms.

So far, KT, Korea’s No. 1 fixed-line and runner-up mobile operator, has been most active in marrying information technology and vehicles. It recently agreed to implement some of its service on Hyundai’s buses and trucks that help clients locate their cars and archive driving history.

For full article see Korea Times.

SKT trials VoLTE service for submarines

Korean telecommunications giant SK Telecom said Thursday that it had a successful trial run of new sub-ocean voice-over LTE wireless service, or HD Voice service, for the first time in the nation’s history.

A successful test run of the service took place aboard the Seogwipo Submarine on Thursday, about 40 meters below sea level off the coast of Jeju Island, according to the company. The vessel has been providing outings for tourists since the late 1980s.

SK Telecom said it used an LTE transmitter and antenna attached to a flotation device, then connected it via cable to the submarine in order to connect it with Seogwipo Port and provide the service aboard the ocean craft. 

Also known as VoLTE, the service refers to a high-speed network that transmits data and allows users to place phone and even high-definition video calls at unprecedented speeds. Smartphone users can also access mobile apps and download video through the network.

For full article see Korea Herald.

Mobile carriers eyeing non-core businesses

Though mobile carriers are seeing a rapid rise in long-term evolution (LTE) network subscribers, they are also anxious to earn revenues from what was hitherto considered out of their business areas.

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus have shown near same services in telecommunication business recently, all boasting a nationwide LTE network and all releasing voice over LTE (VoLTE, or making voice calls available on an LTE network).

Market saturation and the declining profits due to heavy investments on network building are now pushing companies to find a way to increase competitiveness by differentiating themselves from rivals, especially for the second half of this year.

SK Telecom, which announced 4 million LTE subscribers Sunday, wants its members to take a keen interest in its growing content.

For full article see Korea Times.

Korean LTE users top 8.4 mln mark

The number of fourth-generation long-term evolution (LTE) network users in South Korea hit the 8.4 million mark with the figure expected to nearly double by year’s end, industry sources said Sunday.

Sources said SK Telecom Co., South Korea’s largest mobile carrier, reported its 4 millionth subscriber on Friday, 44 days after it said user numbers reached 3 million. KT Corp., the country’s No. 2 mobile communication service provider, said it provided LTE service to 1.4 million users as of early last week, with the number growing steadily on a daily basis. LG Uplus Corp., South Korea’s smallest mobile carrier, said that people using its fourth-generation network should break the 3 million mark in a few days, as more and more people opt for the super-fast communications network that allows people to see movies with no lag time and download full-length movies in seconds.

For full article see Yonhap News.