September 28, 2011
South Korea's largest mobile operator, SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM), launched on Wednesday the first smartphone for its Long Term Evolution (LTE) service and promised to add seven more smartphones to its 4G device lineup by the end of the year.
The first of the new smartphones is the Galaxy SII LTE from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), which is available as of today. The next device will be an LTE smartphone from High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) that will be available later this month. In October, the operator will offer three other smartphones from Samsung, HTC and Pantech Co. Ltd. , respectively, followed by yet another Samsung handset in November and an additional Pantech device in December.
SK Telecom also promised an LTE tablet from Samsung with an 8.9-inch screen.
Including the two LTE data modems that the operator has offered since it launched the LTE service in July, SK Telecom says it will have a total of 10 LTE devices by the end of the year. (See Korea's LTE Lift-Off.)
The operator also introduced two new sets of price plans for the LTE service. For the so-called LTE Price Plan, there are seven different options; and the LTE Data Price Plan -- which as the name would suggest is for heavier data users -- has four different monthly tariffs from which to choose. SK will offer discounts on these new plans until the end of the year -- for example, if a user chooses a monthly tariff of KRW62,000 (US$53) or higher, he will get an additional flat-rate data plan for free until February 2012.
In addition to the new devices and tariffs, SK also unveiled plans to shift from using a 5MHz frequency channel to 10MHz starting next month, which the carrier claims would expand network capacity and offer "twice faster speed."
SK Telecom said it expects to have 500,000 LTE subscribers in the second half of this year and 5 million users by 2012.
Why this matters
South Korea is a highly competitive mobile broadband market and the three mobile operators -- KT Corp. , LG Telecom and SK Telecom -- have each brought forward their launch plans for LTE. SK Telecom needs compelling LTE devices and prices to attract customers in a country with many choices. LG launched its own LTE service in July, and KT plans to launch before the end of this year.
Also, SK Telecom's ambitious LTE plans partly explain why the Asia/Pacific region will have the most LTE subscribers in the next few years, according to the latest findings from Pyramid Research . (See Asia/Pac Will Be LTE World Leader .)
For more on LTE in South Korea and the Asia/Pac region, check out these stories:
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