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Posted : 2012-04-23 20:58
Updated : 2012-04-23 20:58

Betting on LTE


KT President Pyo Hyun-myung talks during a press conference in Busan, Monday. / Courtesy of KT

KT vows fastest LTE networks to outperform SK, LG

By Cho Mu-hyun

BUSAN ― KT, Korea’s second largest mobile carrier, has vowed to outperform its rivals in the race for an advanced telecom technology based on fourth-generation (4G) long-term evolution (LTE).

Although KT was a late arrival in the competition due to the late closure of its outdated 2G-based networks, its senior executive Pyo Hyun-myung is still confident it will secure 4 million LTE customers by the end of this year.

This is a ``winner takes all’’ game as Korea’s top three mobile carriers are stepping up efforts to capture the highly-promising LTE market. SK Telecom and LG Uplus are already giving massive subsidies to gain more customers.

“You may be wondering why we are holding a media briefing on a yacht near Busan. We wanted to demonstrate that KT allows access even in the most inaccessible places,” Pyo, also the top lieutenant of company CEO Lee Suk-chae, told reporters invited for the conference on the boat.

“Not only did we want to celebrate the completion of our nationwide LTE network, but to prove it with a presentation.”

According to Pyo, KT’s know-how in 3G drastically shortened the construction time of its LTE network to four months, unlike its rivals which took 11 months.

Pyo stressed that KT’s LTE service, like its rivals, will be available in 84 cities and on express trains, continuing to branch out further to the remotest places in Korea.

“We are planning to widen the network to the country’s nooks and crannies, and expect it to be complete by June,” said the president.

KT, according to its own studies, is seeing a continuous rise in 4G users in its total customer base. “Our expectation is that by the year 2013, KT’s LTE traffic will overwhelm that of 3G,” said Pyo.

However, KT, which kept its position behind SK Telecom as second-seed in 3G before the explosion of 4G, has only just started in the new area, and tangible results are yet to surface to determine who will win the race.

KT has aggressively tapped into the LTE market and chased domestic leader LG and runner-up SK Telecom, which started their services in July and October, respectively.

LG Uplus hit 2 million customers in April 17, while SK Telecom, which had 1.7 million subscribers then, expects to reach the 2 million mark next month. KT has substantially less users, with a mere 500,000.

Senior executive Vice President Kim Yeon-hak also admitted that the company is trailing its counterparts, but added the competition is just beginning.

“We started late, so we obviously have the least subscribers,” said Kim. “But KT was at the fore during the 3G era, and we will regain our lead again.”

“Now all three (telecommunications companies) have nationwide coverage. From now on, access speed is the most important thing. I believe we will top the whole market within end of this year, or early 2013,” he added.

Some telecommunications experts have said that KT’s rush into 4G may cause the company to see more business turbulence.

“We invested heavily in 3G, and recovered some of our investment. It is true that we regret that we were unable to collect what we invested (in 3G). We could have collected more revenue in 3G, but we felt that change in consumer’s mindset had already happened (toward 4G) so we proceeded with building the 4G network early this year,” said Kim.

SK Telecom released a statement the same day denying that KT’s network was the fastest. “KT’s evidence lacks objectivity and the internal tests were conducted in places that favor the firm,” it read. “According to statistics provided by Benchbee, an agency that measures data transfer speed, SK Telecom’s LTE service is 30 percent faster than its competitors.”
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