Operators to invest as Korean LTE users want more

South Korean mobile subscribers are unsatisfied with the geographical coverage of the nation’s LTE network according to a study conducted by the national regulator, the KCC. While their discontent reflects positively on the performance of the technology where it is available it raises questions about deployment strategies that prioritise certain areas over others.

South Korea has been leading the world in terms of the rollout of LTE services. It was the first market to see all operators deploy the technology and, now that each of them has had time to bed their new networks in, the KCC has conducted a survey that reveals consumers want more.

A total of 73 per cent of LTE users surveyed by the regulator said they were happy with the accessibility and transmission speed of the service. And while 35.2 percent of Korean smartphone users said they plan to purchase an LTE device within the next year, around 60 per cent of those already using the technology said that they were not satisfied with the extent of network coverage.

Informa analyst Charice Wang said that Korea’s operators have plans in place to satisfy consumer demand. Korea Telecom, which became the last operator in the country to launch its commercial LTE service in January this year, plans to spend KRW1tn ($882.7m) expanding its network before 2013. The figure represents 40 per cent of its overall wireless capex, Wang said.

Meanwhile, LG U+ announced the completion of its nationwide LTE network rollout in March 2012. Despite having spent more than KRW1.25tn ($1.1bn) on the rollout though, the operator has now announced plans to construct an additional LTE network operating in the 2.1GHz band, with a view to ensuring that all demand for data services is met.


SK Telecom completed building its nationwide LTE network covering 99 percent of population in 800MHz in June 2012. It plans a staged approach to increasing capacity and deploying LTE-A in the second half of 2013 as data traffic increases.

“The number of LTE subscriptions has grown rapidly since 2011 and should remain strong in the next five years, nearing 50 per cent market share at end-2016,” said Wang.

Informa’s LTE Asia event takes place September 18-19 in Singapore.

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