BARCELONA ― A senior executive of Google said Korean mobile operators have become the measurement for deciphering global trends.
"LTE (long-term evolution) is growing incredibly fast in Korea," said Google's Android Global Partnerships Senior Director John Lagerling in an interview with The Korea Times during the Mobile World Congress (MWC).
"So all of the positive things and requests I get from the likes of KT, SK Telecom and LG Uplus is usually the indicator of what was going to come from other operators of the world.
"So it's well worth spending time there," said the director who visits Korea "every month" to strengthen ties with local partners that also include manufacturers as well as an increasing number of app and game developers, that are using Google's Android operating system (OS) as a platform to go abroad.
The profile of Korean carriers has increased significantly since setting up LTE networks two years ago. KT Chairman Lee Suk-chae became the first CEO of a local telecommunications firm to deliver a keynote speech at the world's largest tradeshow, indicative of its increased status.
KT and SK Telecom have both clinched numerous awards for their technology and service at the trade show.
Lagerling's role as senior director of partnerships is to maintain ties with carriers and device makers saying, "I spend a good amount of time in Korea and for good reasons."
He emphasized the strong affection Google has towards the country, home to some of the vendors of its operating system (OS) saying, "Android is big in Korea and Korea is also big in Android,"
Referring to the immensely popular Nexus devices released by the Internet giant he said, "We get a lot of variety (from the series). The literacy of users in Korea is very high, and they like customizing their phones, adding backgrounds and their own sense of how to use their devices.
"Android is extremely well catered for those in need and I think that is the main reason for Android being popular in Korea."
The director, who is visiting the MWC for the 10th time, said this year "showed what Android can really enable."
He also said Android tablets had a stronger presence, owing to the launch of the Nexus 7 last year. In Korea, Google cared enough for the device to have chairman Eric Schmidt make a personal visit to introduce the device and strengthen ties with Samsung, the partner for the Nexus 10. "The Nexus 7 is outselling the iPad significantly," Lagerling said.
On the question of whether Google, by offering the Nexus series cheaper than devices manufactured by its partners with similar specifications and possibly eating away their profits he said, "It's about consumer choice."
He went on to say, "Operators often subsidize devices too. Which is a big deal in the industry and consumers really don't feel that the prices of devices are too high. It's just a different (business) model."
On whether manufacturing partners will feel betrayed by Google's release of more handsets through its Motorola division, he declined to comment directly but added, "I think our partners reaped the benefit of us acquiring Motorola by aggregating IP patents, which helped deter a lot of the patent war that went on the industry."