Tough sailing for new iPad here?
Korea left off Apple’s initial sales list as Samsung prepares new lawsuit
By Kim Yoo-chul
Apple's new retina display iPad is generating massive hype but industry observers say the device may face a difficult challenge in Korea.
Its bitter rival Samsung Electronics, which is in a widening patent dispute with Apple over mobile technologies, plans to file a fresh lawsuit here that may affect consumer access to the new iPad.
And while Apple predictably left Korea off its initial sales list for its new tablet, adjusting it for the Korean market could take longer than for its previous mobile devices due to differences in radio frequencies.
Apple will release the new iPad in North America, France, Japan, Switzerland and Britain on March 16, before providing it to other countries on its list on March 23.
Apple and Samsung have brought a slew of lawsuits against each other since April last year, when Apple accused its Korean rival of ``slavishly’’ copying the look and feel of iPhones and iPads in its Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets.
Samsung responded with countersuits accusing Apple of infringing on its technologies for smartphones and data processing on third generation (3G) networks. It recently filed a lawsuit in Korea accusing Apple of violating three of its patents in designing the iPhone 4S and iPad 2.
``Our legal team will remain hawkish against Apple and the new iPad will be greeted with a lawsuit here. No plan has been finalized but the new iPad will obviously be a target,’’ a Samsung source said.
The new iPad may also create headaches for SK Telecom and KT, the country’s two biggest mobile carriers. The device is designed to operate on different frequency spectrums than used by the carriers to operate their fourth generation (4G) Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks.
The new iPad works on 700-megahertz and 2.1-gigahertz radio frequencies for LTE access.
SK Telecom and LG Uplus, the smallest of Korea’s three wireless carriers, use the 800-megahertz band for their LTE services, while KT uses the 1.8-gigahertz band. While SK Telecom and LG Uplus have won licenses to use the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum, they won’t be able to do so until later this year.
``The new iPad will be a good product to sell, but spectrum-related issues will be tricky. It’s hard to expect Apple to provide us with Korea-specific products that use our bandwidths,’’ said an SK Telecom official.
The Wi-Fi-only versions of the new iPad in the United States will cost $499, $599, and $699 for the 16-, 32-, and 64-megabyte versions, respectively. The LTE-enabled iPads, to be sold by carriers, will range from $629 to $829 plus data plans.
KT officials said Apple may release the Wi-Fi models in Korea first to build up consumer demand for the LTE-enabled models that may need more time to become available here.
KT was the first carrier here to embrace Apple’s products, releasing the iPhone 3GS in November 2009, but this has resulted in a deteriorating relationship with Samsung, which has been touchy about losing its dominance at home.
No iPhone or iPad has ever failed the certification process by the Korea Communications Commission’s Radio Research Agency.
``Apple is worried about the new iPad becoming the first,’’ said SK Telecom officials. Steve Park, Apple’s Korean representative, didn't offer any meaningful thing to say.