South Korea’s second-largest mobile network operator by subscribers, KT Corp, is expected to launch commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) services today, after gaining final court approval last week for the shutdown of its second-generation network. In the wake of that development the Korea Herald reported that KT now plans to shut down its 2G infrastructure in stages, and Seoul has been earmarked as the first location for that to happen. KT meanwhile has said that it will immediately start offering 4G services once the second-generation infrastructure has been switched off in a location, with a launch scheduled for 10am on 3 January in the capital. The operator has indicated that it is aiming to sign up four million LTE subscribers within the first year of offering the enhanced speed services, and has said that this target will be achieved in part by rolling out the technology nationwide (84 cities) by the end of April 2012. ‘The company’s LTE launch has been delayed for more than a month. Despite our late start, we will introduce a more complete LTE service,’ noted KT chairman Lee Suk-chae of the developments.
The inauguration of KT’s LTE services had faced a roadblock after a number of the operator’s 2G subscribers filed a class action lawsuit with a view to invalidating a November 2011 regulatory decision allowing KT to discontinue its second-generation products from 8 December 2011. The plaintiff’s case reportedly asserted that in allowing the switch-off the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) had violated the Electro Communications Business Act, which, it is claimed, requires both landline and wireless communications service providers to notify users of service changes 60 days in advance. However, in its rebuttal of the class action suit, the court noted: ‘The damages caused as they are not offered the 2G service can be compensated by exercising their rights for compensation claim, while those from switching their phone numbers are due to the prefix unification policy to 010.’ Further, it raised concerns matters of competition as another reason to ensure no further delays to KT’s LTE launch, adding: ‘If KT’s entry into the 4G service is delayed further, SK Telecom and LG Uplus are likely to enjoy excessive market dominance.’