KT Unveils LTE Timetable

South Korea's national operator, KT Corp. , has launched its Long Term Evolution (LTE) service and unveiled a timetable for the simultaneous national rollout of the next-generation mobile service and termination of its 2G CDMA services.

As of Jan. 3, KT is offering its LTE service in five districts of the national capital, Seoul, and, at the same time, has begun shutting off its 2G service in the Seoul city area. KT expects to be offering LTE services across the whole of Seoul by the end of January, in 26 cities by the end of March and in 84 cities (covering 92 percent of the Korean population) by the end of April.

The operator plans to terminate its national 2G service, still used by about 159,000 customers, by March 19 as it is currently offered using the 1800MHz spectrum that KT is re-farming for its LTE service. The plan to shut off the CDMA service has proved contentious, leading to court cases that held up KT's LTE launch. The operator finally received High Court approval to terminate its 2G service on Dec. 26.

KT has three handsets for its LTE launch -- the Galaxy S2 HD LTE and Galaxy Note from Samsung Corp. , and Pantech Co. Ltd. 's Vega LTE M. The operator, which is investing 1.3 trillion Korean Won (US$1.13 billion) in its national LTE network, aims to have 4 million LTE users by the end of 2012.

Why this matters
KT is playing LTE catch-up with its domestic mobile rivals, market leader SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) and LG Telecom (LG U+), both of which launched their services during 2011. So a rapid rollout of services is important for KT, especially following the court-induced delays that prevented its pre-New Year launch. (See SK Telecom Snags 7 LTE Smartphones and Korea's LTE Lift-Off.)

And KT's experience should send a warning to other operators around the world that are planning to re-use spectrum for LTE: Customers happy with their legacy services aren't likely to sit back and watch their services being turned off without a legal fight.

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— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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