LG ahead of pack in Voice over LTE
By Cho Mu-hyun
The competition between the domestic mobile carriers in long-term evolution (LTE) is heating up as all three have finished their respective nationwide networks.
Now with proper 4G coverage in place, the three firms are vowing to win with superior quality, especially in Voice over LTE (VoLTE), and are speeding up developments for an earlier release than their rivals. VoLTE adds call and message services, to the currently available data transfer capability in 4G.
But the early bird gets the worm, and it seems LG Uplus is in its comfort zone.
It completed its nationwide LTE network on March 29, the first among the competitors, and has invested 1.25 trillion won since last year.
Its total number of subscribers are currently 1.8 million, and rapidly rising and drawing nearer to SK Telecom’s 2 million, while KT is trailing behind with 500,000. LG is seeing 20,000 new clients daily, and has branded itself as the top service provider of LTE thanks to early promotions.
It seems poised to maintain its lead with an announcement of a further 100 billion won investment on Monday, while also revealing plans to increase server memory before the expected full commercialization of VoLTE on Oct. 1.
The company is planning to add 2,000 more remote radio heads (RRH) in metropolitan areas to 65,000 already in place, and increase frequency bandwidth to 2.1 GHz.
The expansion is to accommodate the increased view of high-definition videos of domestic baseball games since the season began, and a preparation for VoLTE services.
LG conducted field tests in February, while showing progress in VoLTE technology in exhibitions last month. It expects to add VoLTE features to some handsets prior to the official release in October. SK Telecom expects to launch full VoLTE services on July.
It announced a release date of around December at the Mobile World Conference held in Barcelona, Spain in February, and the change of schedule is thought to be a reaction to LG by mobile officials.
It plans to upgrade the current 800 MHz frequency bandwidth to 1.8 GHz to increase download speed and lessen data traffic. SK plans to test the new frequency in Gangnam from next month.
KT, the leader in the 3G era, has vowed to catch up and lead in 4G as well.
“We expect a release around October, when the devices will be ready,” said KT President Pyo Hyun-myung. “We plan to provide services using 900 Mbz bandwidth in the outer areas (of Korea).”
Though all three carriers have agreed on LTE growing to see a total of 10 million subscribers this year, the prices and development of devices appropriate for VoLTE is still under debate.
Market analysts expect Qualcomm to release a chip supporting VoLTE in the second half of this year, while LG and SK plan a hybrid device concurrent with Qualcomm’s release date. A VoLTE exclusive chip is expected early next year.