Preparing for counterattack
By Cho Mu-hyun
The nation’s three domestic mobile carriers are speeding up developments for voice over long-term evolution (VoLTE) to commercialize it following the recent launch of Kakao Talks’ free Internet call service.
The most popular mobile messenger service here launched its VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) test service Monday, which directly threatens mobile carriers’ main revenue from voice call services over their third generation (3G) network.
Despite carriers’ pleas to the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) to require content providers such as Kakao Talk to pay for using their networks, the KCC has ignored their requests till now.
The telecom regulator restated its stance Friday saying, “We will leave the future development related to mVoIP to the market.” It will take no part in the talks between mobile carriers and content providers.
Telecommunications companies are now cornered to retaliate the only way they can: offer an unquestionably better service than mobile VoIP, which they believe is their ongoing VoLTE service.
“Part of the decision by LG Uplus Vice Chairman Lee Sang-cheol to allow VoIP was the company’s confidence on its VoLTE network,” said an LG Uplus official. “The VoLTE network, once it is completed, will offer a quality that is incomparable to those of free Internet calls.”
LG made a shocking announcement Thursday to allow its users’ access to Kakao Talk without any fees or restrictions, unlike SK Telecom and KT which are currently charging for VoIP use. According to the official, the vice chairman’s confidence in completing VoLTE played a large role in the decision.
“Our voice and data services use separate networks. The former uses our network for 3G and the latter our LTE network. VoLTE will transfer our voice service from the 3G network to the one for LTE. The transfer will allow quality incomparable to VoIP that offers only 3G quality.”
The firm is second in total LTE subscribers with 2.4 million (SK Telecom leads with 3 million), and is expecting the full commercialization of VoLTE in September or October. “We are confident for the release time to be unaffected, so we can afford to allow VoIP.”
LG, though the smallest mobile carrier with the least customers, completed its nationwide LTE network on March 29, the first among domestic mobile carriers.
SK Telecom, the country’s largest mobile carrier, is also downplaying the spread of VoIP, citing the same confidence for its VoLTE
“VoLTE is not just about better quality in voice calls,” said a SK official. “It places previously separated voice and data services on to one better network, which will offer new service models such as making calls and using the Internet simultaneously.”
SK Telecom plans to start its VoLTE service sometime in the third quarter of this year. The company announced that it has completed multi-carrier networks, which doubles the network capacity of the LTE network.
“We have many projects under way, such as building multi-carrier networks and commercializing a carrier aggregation network sometime next year as well. All of these networks will provide a differentiated service for VoLTE compared that of free Internet calls.”
KT, who was the last to join the LTE race and has the least subscribers with 1 million, is also adding impetus to VoLTE developments. KT President Pyo Hyun-myung has stated that its service will start in October.
Experts expect 10 million LTE subscribers by the end of this year, with a large number of them transferring to the new platform from 3G because of anticipation for VoLTE services.
VoLTE’s only dilemma right now is the release of handsets with the capability to support the new services. Samsung’s Galaxy S3 is apple to support SK Telecom’s multi-carrier technology.
Telecommunications companies are in talks with handset manufacturers on releasing models with VoLTE compatible chips.