Japan, Korea carriers ride hi-speed phone wave

Melissa Chua
28 Sep 2011

Some Japanese and Korean carriers plan to promote their 4G networks by rolling out Wimax and LTE-enabled mobile phones, even as their regional counterparts remain cautious by sticking with USB dongles.

In the same week Telstra publicly launched its LTE network with a debut 4G dongle, Japan’s KDDI announced a lineup of six new smartphone models that will ship next month, of which four are Wimax and 3G-ready. The Japanese carrier has just one Wimax-enabled phone on its portfolio to date, but sees an opportunity in catering to demand for high-speed connectivity in tech-savvy Japan.

KDDI, whose LTE network will only launch next year, is clearly hoping consumers will view its Wimax network as being a close alternative to rival NTT Docomo’s LTE network (dubbed ‘Xi’) which launched late last year. The availability of Wimax-enabled mobile phones could entice consumer seeking high-speed access and voice in the same device, particularly since NTT DoCoMo is not slated to launch LTE-ready mobile phones until next year.

South Korea’s SK Telecom and LG Uplus also have LTE-ready phones on the agenda. The former is set to launch devices from Samsung and HTC while the latter will retail handsets from LG. Go-to-market plans have however been put on hold due to a pricing dispute between SK Telecom and regulator, the KCC.

According to the Korea Times, SK Telecom’s sale of LTE-equipped phones has been held up due to the KCC rejecting SK Telecom’s proposed price plan for its LTE service.

SK Telecom had apparently proposed scrapping unlimited data plans and charging an additional $8 per month on top of its regular 3G service for customers on LTE-equipped smartphones, but KCC officials had refused claiming this pricing goes against the government’s anti-inflation measures, which involve helping households trim telecommunication expenses.

LG Uplus’ planned launch has also been put on hold as a result of this deadlock.

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