KT Corp., South Korea's No. 2 mobile operator, plans to launch a new satellite in two years, industry sources said Sunday, in a bid to extend Seoul's claim to a trajectory once orbited by the now-suspended Mugunghwa-3.
KT's plan to send the Mugunghwa-7 into its predecessor's orbit by 2016 came as South Korea's holding of the trajectory may be retrieved by a United Nations' telecom body if it is not used for more than three years.
The problem emerged as KT sold the Mugungwha 2 and 3, South Korea's retired satellites launched in 1996 and 1999, respectively, in 2011 to a Hong Kong-based satellite operator for a combined 4.5 billion won, without obtaining any previous approval from the country's telecom authorities.
Hong Kong's Asia Broadcast Satellite is currently operating the two Mugungwha satellites for mobile communication and other purposes.
Although the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning ordered KT to retrieve the Mugunghwa-3 in December 2013, the process has been slow as Hong Kong's ABS had requested compensation, sending the case to a court under the International Chamber of Commerce.
KT's rush to launch another satellite came as it usually takes two to three years for the court to settle a case, which may provide the International Telecommunications Union with grounds to retrieve South Korea's rights on the trajectory circled by the Mugunghwa-3.
"While it would be best if KT settles the issue with ABS, the dispute is out of our jurisdiction," an official from the telecom ministry said. KT was a state-owned firm before it was privatized in 2002.
KT said it is currently considering other measures to keep South Korea's right to the trajectory, including speeding up the launch of the new satellite. (Yonhap)