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SKT ups ante in network competition

SK Telecom, the country’s biggest mobile carrier, is raising the stake in the competition over the quality of mobile networks by introducing technologies it claims would increase data capacity six fold.

The company Thursday unveiled its strategy for “unlimited data service,” which provides different solutions depending on the scale of the areas which need network coverage, in addition to its planned establishment of up to 15,000 Wi-Fi zones.

The company expressed doubt about its rival KT Corp.’s network plan, which centers on increased Wi-Fi zones, saying the technology is short of meeting a sharp growth in traffic demand fueled by smartphones.

“We have found that constructing 1 million Wi-Fi zones will cover a limited 0.1-0.3 percent when looking at it on a national scale,” said Jang Yong-ha, executive vice president of the network division at SKT. “That’s the reason we should look more into offering solutions instead.”

SKT is preparing to introduce the unlimited data usage plan for smartphone users. The new scheme, unveiled for the first time in July, is currently being reviewed by the state telecom regulator Korea Communications Commission.

The company also plans to establish the advanced Long Term Evolution networks for large areas as early as July next year and expand the networks across the nation by 2013.

For what it calls “middle areas,” such as commercial and public facilities, it will provide a “Six Sector Solution,” which further divides the mobile base station to cover more data traffic.

The company will also work on increasing the coverage of WiBro for this specific group. A total of 5,000 wireless Internet networks for mobiles are expected to be established at subway stations and bus stops this year. Personal dual band dual mode bridges -- which changes WiBro signals to Wi-Fi signals -- will also be featured for the first time in October, according to SKT officials.

“Wireless networks will be equipped mostly at subway stations and only in some of the moving trains due to the loss of frequency,” said Jang. “For buses, we’re considering establishing Wi-Fi zones in the ones which people take long trips, however, a specific figure hasn’t been set.”

For the small areas like home, school and workplaces, which have up to about 20 network users, the company will introduce a service called “data femtocell.”

The service will be additionally set up on the existing high-speed broadband network in a bid to ease overcrowd in traffic.

“Data femtocell could be used for traffic-crowded small areas that required mobility while Wi-Fi is utilized for big-scale traffic flow at a fixed spot,” Jang explained.

He added that SKT is planning to set up to 10,000 data femtocells beginning from the latter half of this year to the end of next year.

“We will support the unlimited data plan with the company’s 3G infrastructure and new technologies while offering Wi-Fi services in areas which are requested and are seen with large traffic flows,” Jang said.

By Cho Ji-hyun (