Seoul, Korea ¶ In the Korean mobile market version of “The Romance of Three Kingdoms,” KT has been a runner-up for quite a long time trailing the market leader SK Telecom, the largest operator in Korea by subscribers and sales while LG Uplus has been distantly behind as the third position.
But in an era of the LTE war, things have significantly changed. SK Telecom and LG Uplus moved fast, starting their LTE services in July last year. LG Uplus, in particular, massively invested in LTE and successfully took an initiative. LG Uplus was the first Korean operator to complete a nationwide coverage of the LTE network, followed by SK Telecom. In the meantime, KT left behind in the LTE race, partly because it had rather focused on WiBro.
To make things bad to worse, a court decision delayed KT’s plan to switch its spectrum used in 2G network to 4G LTE. Eventually, KT started its LTE service from January this year, almost half a year later than its competitors. Obviously at the moment, KT is far behind its two competitors in the market; as of Apr 23, SK Telecom has acquired 2.25 million LTE subscribers while LG Uplus attracting 1.80 million.
However, KT is now striking back with its LTE Warp technology, just like Darth Vader in its popular TV commercial. At a media conference held on board of a passenger ship near Haeundae, Busan, on Apr 23, Pyo Hyun-myong, president of the mobile business unit at KT, said, “I am confident that KT’s LTE Warp technology is more competitive and advanced than the comparable technologies of rival companies”. He also added, “We expect to achieve 4 million LTE subscribers by the end of this year.”
KT’s LTE Warp technology virtualizes base stations, utilizing 144 base stations like a single one. When a particular base station becomes burdened with over-traffic, the warp technology effectively distributes traffics to other base stations. The technology, which is jointly developed with Samsung Electronics, also minimizes interference effects caused by overlapped signals between boundaries. KT plans to increase the number of virtualized base stations to 1,000 in the future.
KT officially announced on April 24 that it has completed LTE rollouts to 84 cities and all the train routes of KTX. KT was able to establish its national LTE network in a much shorter period of four months than its rivals, since it utilized “plug-in” method of adding LTE facilities to its existing 3G Cloud Communication Centers. KT plans to expand its national coverage of its LTE network to smaller counties in the first half of this year.
KT is also employing an aggressive strategy to catch up with others with currently the largest data allowances in the market and a variety of rate plans including special ones for young adults and senior citizens. In addition, KT strengthens its multimedia contents along with releases of services like “Olleh TV Now Pack” which provides 60 live channels and more than 20,000 video-on-demand contents. KT also plans to launch its VoLTE service in October this year.
President Pyo said at the media conference, “Admittedly, there is an obvious first-mover advantage in the market. But latecomers would have the upper hand in the end, if they have better technologies,” adding, “We have developed our original technology to offer better LTE service to customers, especially heavy users. KT will take back our market share in a very near future.”
Adrian Han (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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