Lee Suk-chae - agent of big change
KT CEO seeks hardware-software convergence during second term
By Kim Yoo-chul
KT Chairman Lee Suk-chae said he will accelerate efforts to make the company a ``market creator’’ in an era of convergence between hardware and software.
The bureaucrat-turned-executive has spearheaded the restructuring of Korea’s second-biggest mobile carrier, including cutting jobs.
KT’s board recently nominated the incumbent head for a second-term, giving him credit for helping the firm establish a presence in the local smartphone market.
``If our shareholders give the green light for me to work for a second term, then I will make KT the world’s best technology firm,’’ Lee said Monday.
``I can say we’ve had half a success over the last three years. The company has been pursuing steady changes in our corporate culture by adding innovation and creativeness. I hope to complete the ongoing job.’’
The chief executive was speaking to local and foreign media on KT’s 4G long-term evolution (LTE) strategies at its headquarters in Seoul.
LTE is faster in terms of downloading speed for mobile content than the mainstream 3G networks.
Despite the heavy investment for advanced networks, domestic rivals SK Telecom and LG Uplus are already enjoying first-mover advantage in the local LTE market.
Now, KT hopes to challenge them by starting its much-awaited LTE service today after a Seoul High Court recently overturned a lower court ruling that favored some 900 customers who had filed a lawsuit against the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) to nullify its approval of the shutdown of KT’s outdated 2G service.
``As the chief executive of the company, I should say sorry to our customers who have been waiting for KT’s 4G LTE service. With a stable 1.8-gigahertz frequency, KT will offer a high quality LTE service,’’ said Lee.
For KT’s existing 3G customers there will be a promotion where they can change to an LTE service at no extra cost as long as they do so by Jan. 20.
The firm has identified speed, stability, coverage, pricing, service and the number of LTE-supported devices as ``six challenging factors’’ for the soft-landing of its LTE business, though Lee was upbeat on meeting consumer requirements.
In pricing, the most sensitive factor for customers, he ruled out the possibility of an unlimited data plan for LTE citing the scarcity of network spectrum. However, Lee said the company will offer competitive plans to customers.
``It’s against capitalism. If KT maintains unlimited pricing even for LTE services, then our networks will suffer from heavy data traffic,’’ he said.
KT has released seven LTE plans. The 62,000 won monthly payment plan will see users receive 350 minutes of voice calls, 3 gigabytes of wireless Internet data and 350 text messages.
KT said it aims to increase its number of LTE customers to 4 million by the end of this year. As of the end of last year, SK had some 600,000 LTE customers, while LG had over 500,000, according to the two rivals. They launched their LTE services in Seoul in July.
``Yes, we are late in the growing market. But KT doesn’t care about the number of customers with SK and KT, respectively,’’ he said.
KT plans to invest 1.3 trillion won for its 4G LTE-related network expansion by the end of the year.
It’s use of the 1.8 gigahertz frequency is apparently targeting Apple’s next handset, the iPhone 5.
``I asked Qualcomm chief executive Paul Jacobs about the accessibility of LTE services by using the 1.8 gigahertz bandwidth during last year’s G20 summit, however, Jacobs didn’t answer at that time. But the bandwidth is going global,’’ said Lee.
``The frequency has already been authorized by GSMA and some 350 telecom carriers worldwide are securing the bandwidth. Ten telecom companies in nine different countries are offering LTE services on this frequency.’’
KT was the nation’s first telecom company to sell the iPhone in November 2009, followed by SK.