South Korea’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, SK Telecom, has revealed that it aims to offer a commercial voice-over-Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) service from September 2012, according to the Korea Times. The new service, which it is understood will go by the ‘HD Voice’ moniker, is reportedly intended to replace internet-based voice transmission services currently provided over the cellco’s 3G network, known as ‘mVoIP’, with SKT claiming the new product will offer superior voice call quality. Indeed, company officials have claimed that the quality of calls offered by its VoLTE service will be incomparable to mVoIP, with Byun Jae-hwan, who heads the development for VoLTE and RCS for SKT, noting: ‘It is wrong to compare VoLTE and mVoIP as it is totally different technology … VoLTE related devices are embedded in handsets, so you start off with strong support from the hardware. In contrast, mVoIP is among one of many downloadable apps. VoLTE’s call quality is on a different level.’ While SKT has said it expects the majority of 3G users to upgrade, it has confirmed that it will continue to support those that remain on the older network. At launch VoLTE is expected to be available in the capital, Seoul, as well as six other ‘major cities’, before expanding to 23 new locations by 2013. Although pricing for the 4G internet telephony option has yet to be formally announced, it is believed that it will be similar to that of SKT’s 3G VoIP offering.
Highlighting another technical advance due to be introduced soon, SKT has also revealed that it is working on Rich Communication Suite (RCS) services, which will allow voice and video calls, short messages, chat and data transfer simultaneously.
Meanwhile, detailing the current rate of take-up for its 4G services, Bae Joon-dong, head of SKT’s network operation business division, was cited as saying: ‘We have secured 3.4 million (LTE) subscribers and predict seven million by the end of the year’. Looking further ahead, the executive noted that by 2015 SKT expects to have around 21 million customers signed up to its 4G services.