The tablet PC market is currently at 13 million in the worldwide market and this is expected to jump significantly to 30 million units next year. According to recent surveys conducted by Ovum and Telecom Asia, tablet devices was identified by respondents as driving 25 percent of the mobile broadband market, next only to smartphones which came in first at a high 50 percent. This is just a clear indication of how popular smartphones and tablets devices are in today’s modern society.
This trend is similar in most parts of the globe and is clearly very evident in South Korea whose 9.7 million smartphone users account for 20 percent of the country’s 50 million total mobile phone users. Among South Korea’s service providers, SK Telecom leads the pack with 5 million smartphone subscribers, followed closely by Korea Telecom (KT) at 3.7 million and LG Uplus at 1 million subscribers. Most new mobile phone purchases in the country are smartphones and the number of users is expected to reach 20 million by the end of this year.
To support this growing demand for smartphone and tablet computers, South Korea’s top mobile carriers are upgrading their systems and will be switching to a super-fast 4G wireless service based on Long-Term Evolution or LTE technology. This super-fast system can support the ever increasing data traffic and usage that made these devices so popular worldwide – and will be fully available in South Korea on a national scale by 2013.
Currently, South Korea’s wireless services are based on mobile WiMax network technologies or the IEEE 802.16e International Standard, which is popularly called in the country by its South Korean service name WiBro. Korea Telecom (KT) was the first to launch this service commercially in June 2006 and was made available nationwide on March 2011. SK Telecom followed suit and offered the Wave 2 version of the WiBro service, but is limited only to major cities and highways.
KT plans to upgrade their WiBro services to 10 Mbit/s connection speeds which is ten time what they are offering now. SK Telecom on the other hand will not go down the WiBro path and instead would switch to the Super-Fast LTE system once their current license for the 2.3 GHz frequency system expires by 2012. This move is in anticipation of the ever increasing popularity of tablets and smartphones in the country which is expected to account for 90 percent of mobile phones in South Korea by 2013.
This popularity has exploded in recent years and South Korea’s current 10 million total smartphone users are expected to double in number by the end of this year. Smartphone users account for 15.2 percent of SK Telecom’s total mobile subscriber base, but the company is targeting to increase this number to 10 million subscribers this year. KT on the other hand is targeting 6.5 million smartphone subscribers this year, which currently accounts for 67 percent of its total subscriber base.
With LTE at the core of its system, SK Telecom expects their wireless services to be 1.9 times faster than WiBro, and will allow their users to download large content in a matter of minutes. LTE has a maximum downlink speed of 75 Mbps which is faster than the current 37.5 Mbps that WiBro offers. Maximum uplink speed of 37.5 Mbps for LTE is also faster in comparison to WiBro’s 10 Mbps uplink speeds.
SK Telecom will start offering LTE services during the second half of 2011 and is expected to immediately attract 300,000 users. To ensure the success of their LTE services, SK Telecom has deployed 1772 Radio Units (RU)) and 609 Digital Units (DU) to support its LTE network across Seoul and ensure seamless and flawless super-fast 4G wireless services in indoor, underground, and all other areas in the capital.
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