South Korea’s Ministry of Communication and Information has confirmed it will cancel the 3G licence of LG Telecom (LGT) after ruling that the cellco had not made enough progress towards launching next-generation mobile services, Rho Jun Hyong, minister of information and communication, said at a press conference today. The decision was prompted by LGT’s announcement earlier this month that it had no immediate plans to utilise its 3G spectrum. Under the country’s current laws any person involved in the acquisition of a licence must step down if that licence is subsequently cancelled, and the Ministry is seeking the immediate resignation of LGT’s long-running CEO Nam Yong.
LGT already held a mobile licence for the 1700MHz band when it paid KRW220 billion (USD1.16 billion) for an IMT-2000 concession in 2001, giving it exclusive rights to the 2GHz band for CDMA2000-based 3G services; its rivals KTF Corp and SK Telecom both operate W-CDMA networks in the same band. LGT launched 1700MHz 1x services in October 2000, but has never utilised its 2GHz frequencies. It had originally planned to roll out a CDMA2000 1x upgrade known as EV-DV in 2005, offering faster data speeds than EV-DO at up to 3.1Mbps downlink/1.8Mbps uplink. It began testing EV-DV technology in June 2004, but after a number of high profile operators elsewhere in the world threw their weight behind EV-DO, US vendor Qualcomm — one of LGT’s primary 3G infrastructure suppliers — said it was cancelling development of EV-DV chipsets and equipment, and LGT put its KRW500 billion EV-DV rollout plans on hold indefinitely. In November 2005 the operator became one of the first worldwide to reveal plans to use its 2GHz spectrum to launch EV-DO Revision A, a so-called 3.5G technology, which it said it was aiming to offer by mid-2006. However, in May 2006 it said it would not meet the self imposed deadline and earlier this month it confirmed that whilst it continues to explore the possibilities of launching 3.5G services, it would concentrate on utilising its 1700MHz network to do so.