South Korea’s KTF Corp has launched commercial HSDPA wireless services in Seoul and 49 other cities, joining rival SK Telecom in upgrading its W-CDMA network with the so-called 3.5G technology. LG-Nortel, a joint venture between LG Electronics and Nortel, is KTF’s primary network supplier and the exclusive vendor for 34 cities, including the Seoul metropolitan area which alone accounts for almost 50% of the total population of South Korea. KTF estimates that 80% percent of the country’s population will be able to access 3.5G services by the end of August 2006. A further 34 cities will be added by year-end, raising that figure to over 90%. KTF claims the HSDPA network can deliver services at download speeds up to 14.4Mbps. LG-Nortel will provide a High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) upgrade in early 2007, which will increase uplink speeds to 5.8Mbps for services requiring high-speed upload of data. The service is being launched with two handset models in the initial deployment, including the LG-KH1000, the first HSDPA phone from LG Electronics. Four or five more handsets are to be made available later in the year.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, KTF subsidiary KTicom was awarded a W-CDMA licence in December 2000, but the initial development of services was slow. KTicom was merged into KTF in December 2002 and commercial W-CDMA services were launched in Seoul a year later. KTF initially largely failed to tempt subscribers to switch away from its more established CDMA2000 1x and EV-DO networks, which already offer many of the services available via W-CDMA and boast far greater network coverage. In December 2005 it signed an agreement with NTT DoCoMo of Japan to cooperate on W-CDMA R&D. DoCoMo took a 10% share in KTF and assist with expanding its W-CDMA network nationwide. The pair immediately began preparing for the launch of HSDPA services and LG-Nortel was contracted for the upgrade to 3.5G technology.