LG U+ believes South Korea’s market leading network status derives from the cutting-edge handsets present in the market. In this interview he details the plans for bringing further enhancements and speeds to the network over the next couple of years. To hear more about LGU+’s strategy you can hear Sun Tae Kim, EVP/Director of SD, LG U+, speak on Day Two of the 9th annual LTE Asia conference taking place on the 23rd-25th September 2014 at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
Operators in South Korea seem more willing and able to invest in next-gen technologies earlier than many Western operators? Why do you think this is so?
South Korea has the world-leading manufacturers of smart devices – such as Samsung and LG – and implemented nationwide LTE network sporting the best quality and functionality. But mobile subscribers have been already saturated. The Korean operators, SKT, KT, and LGU+, could not survive in the market just with existing technology and can only beat the competition with new technologies and services. As a result, South Korea has become the world test-bed for next generation technologies.
Following on from that would you say South Korean customers are more willing to try, and pay for, new mobile services?
Actually customers [in South Korea] don’t want to spend their money is the same as in any other country, including Western countries. But if operators provide such good services that customers feel they have no choice but to open their purse, the users are glad to try them and pay the cost in exchange for newly obtained value.
Is implementation of IMS essential for an operator to implement VoLTE and other RCS services and do you believe operators should focus on this technology?
I want to say ‘yes’. IMS has been well-defined standard for packet-based network for years. That is why IMS has been pretty well optimized for LTE networks, such as session connections and QoS control. As you know well, 3GPP didn’t define an LTE function for voice calls and an extra standard was needed for LTE voice. So the GSMA recommended using IMS for voice calls and RCS services. As a result, now IMS has excellent scalability of service. Because the service standards were all defined for using IMS, service development and network building are easy and session control can be provided with expansion among heterogeneous networks. IMS was equipped with a structure that can easily provide fusion services and inter-working. I put emphasis on the fact that IMS is not the only solution for the VoLTE or RCS services via a LTE network, but the most optimal solution.
What is your strategy for offering LTE coverage in areas where it may be of limited return in terms of population?
Typically, operators in other countries have progressively invested LTE in hot spot areas that generated the most 3G traffic. But Korean operators have been creating a customer-oriented ‘service paradigm’ that was different from other countries. Our customers experience a common service based on a nation-wide LTE network. Above all, unlike SK Telecom and KT, with 3G and LTE, LGU+ continues to create new value by providing a voice to VoLTE over all-IP network and 100 per cent LTE.
What are the next major steps for the LGU+ in terms of NFV, SDN and LTE Advanced?
We can divide this into three technology areas. The first is NFV. In 2014 we selected NFV provider of SPGW and integrated IMS, and will commercialize it to ensure early NFV technology competitiveness. In 2015 we will expand our business models into new markets—a variety of M2M services and small company dedicated networks. In addition, we will continue the development of the Open API-based NFV platform with the introduction of third-party apps until 2016.
The second is SDN. Through the effective verification of carrier SDN technology, in 2014 we are making efforts to establish appropriate technical requirements and commercialization plans. We will proceed step-by-step in conjunction with the commercialization of NFV in 2015.
The last is LTE-Advanced. Through Carrier Aggregation we provided download speeds of 150Mbps in July of last year and currently offer 225Mbps. At the end of the year, or early next year, we will supply download speeds of 300Mbps and upload of 100Mbps. We will offer the HetNet Carrier Aggregation between macro cells and small cells. LTE-U, and LTE-Wi-Fi integration will come in 2015, and we will demonstrate tens of Gbps of speed with mmWave and Virtual RAN in 2016.
What are you most looking forward to with regard to the LTE Asia show?
What is impressive about the event is that prominent speakers are presented and all topics covered are good. From LGU+s perspective we are also keen to learn from the case studies of other companies – how they prepare their business models and respond to data traffic increases.