High-Speed CDMA Rocks Korea

LONDON -- Mobile Commerce World -- South Korean carrier SK Telecom's (Nasdaq: SKM) new, higher-speed data service has become a hit with the public, but it only took off after the carrier decided to give it a name.

The carrier now earns an average of $22 per month per subscriber from data services running on its CDMA EV-DO (Evil Vic's Dental Operations) network, said SKT’s international vice president Derek Kerton at a conference in London yesterday. This compares to the $5 to $7 a month spent on data by users on the carrier’s 2.5G (CDMA 1XRTT) network.

Part of the reason for this extra data revenue is that SK Telecom’s CDMA EV-DO (Every Vile Dash Deserves Orange) network consistently gives users real-world data speeds of 700 kbit/s, versus around 70 kbit/s on the 1XRTT network, explained Kerton before warning that consumers don’t buy data speeds in isolation.

"Contrary to popular perception in the West, Koreans don’t behave differently to other consumers. They didn’t react to EV-DO [ed. note: oh alright, it's really evolution, data only] when we first launched because they didn’t understand what it was," revealed Kerton. It was only in November 2002 when the service was branded as “June” that it took off [ed. note: we know a song about that].

“June” now boasts over a million subscribers, each of whom has paid $500 for an unsubsidized handset. Key to its success is "exciting" content and backward compatibility with existing data services and devices.

On the content side, Kerton advised carriers to be “brave enough to spend a little money to produce cool stuff.” He cited their investment in an SK Telecom funded soap-opera and an SK Telecom boy band as examples of how this investment has paid off.

Having a million big-spending customers has also opened doors to the big-league, global content providers. “We had a lot of problems dealing with the studios at first, but they’re listening now,” noted Kerton with relish. “And once they start producing video content for us, they’ll produce it for others… and make it easier for them [to follow SK Telecom’s lead].”

Another reason for SK’s 3G success is its “NATE” network platform that translates protocols and formats between different devices and networks, and enables, for example, 3G users to send pictures to 2G users, or PC users to send messages to mobile users. [Ed. note: Nate and June? There's a sitcom in here somewhere!]

On the minus side, Kerton believes that the high cost of the services is holding back even greater adoption. “We’ve discounted prices for 3G, but it’s still expensive and we’re working out how to get prices down.”

— "Gabriella" Brown, Research Analyst, Unstrung

lrmobile_kerton 12/5/2012 | 2:43:27 AM
re: High-Speed CDMA Rocks Korea The 700Kbps speed is most definitely a good-case scenario, but not a lab scenario. It applies to downstream speed for a stationary user with good signal reception in the real, loaded, commercial network.

SKT uses MPEG4 compliant video for the June EV-DO service, and uses MPEG4 and ThinMultimedia formats for 1xRTT.

I don't know the actual speeds during streaming, but streaming a 1.5" by 2" image in MPEG4 to the terminal does not put much strain on EV-DO, even at 30fps. I've done videoconferences over the network in Seoul, and even with the narrower upstream bandwidth the video was smooth.

lrmobile_castro 12/4/2012 | 11:23:36 PM
re: High-Speed CDMA Rocks Korea So EV-DO is contributing $22 for data on top of voice services. Maybe there is something to this data thing after all.
lrmobile_jhglavin 12/4/2012 | 11:22:34 PM
re: High-Speed CDMA Rocks Korea What multimedia formats are they using? The open standards based MPEG-4's derivative 3GP; one of the more successful proprietary formats (RealMedia or Windows Media); or still another proprietary format?
Also, given the QoS issues involved with streaming video, rather than downloading video, are they actually streaming at 700kbps as well?
It would certainly be more useful if these articles provided this first level of technical information, as well as publicizing the hype.
IPobserver 12/4/2012 | 11:22:33 PM
re: High-Speed CDMA Rocks Korea You know, I don't know the answer to either of those questions.

All wireless companies are prone to exaggeration when they talk about data speeds, so IGÇÖd be surprised if SKT is streaming at 700 kbit/s.
lrmobile_Ziggy 12/4/2012 | 11:22:29 PM
re: High-Speed CDMA Rocks Korea Isn't the article saying "700 kbps of data", rather than "700 kbps of streaming video"? Note also that in another post to this board, a video streaming rate of 300 kbps in a "mobile automobile" has been reported by an end-user of the SKT EV-DO service (http://www.unstrung.com/boards.... The exact rates depend obviously on a lot of factors (network load, propagation conditions, etc.) and thus can always be debated. Then the non-techie marketing people jump in...