LG Uplus Corp., Korea’s smallest mobile carrier, said Thursday that it plans to begin a nationwide long term evolution service by mid-2012, moving up its schedule for the fourth-generation mobile service on booming smartphone demand.
LG Uplus will begin offering the service in 82 cities around the country before the end of this year and complete its nationwide 4G network in July next year, the company said in a statement. It had originally planned to launch the nationwide service from 2013.
LG Uplus, which is about to leapfrog the so-called third-generation, WCDMA technology, and jump into the 4G technology, has been facing intensifying competition from its two bigger rivals, SK Telecom Co. and KT Corp., which sell the iPhone and the iPad compatible with their 3G networks.
Its market share stood at 17.8 percent in 2010, compared with 18.1 percent one year ago as it lost subscribers to iPhone-wielding KT. KT claimed 31.6 percent of the domestic wireless market last year, up 0.3 percentage points from 2009, while SK Telecom took a 50.6 percent market share.
The money-losing mobile business at LG Electronics Inc. failed to produce a highly marketable smartphone for LG Uplus last year, whereas rivals armed themselves with competitive smartphone lineups from Samsung Electronics Co.
LG Uplus, however, is betting big on the LTE service to claw back its market share. It is set to invest 1.25 trillion won ($1.14 billion) in the LTE service for two years through 2012, it said.
“The early establishment of nationwide LTE service means that we will be the first to transition to the most advanced network,” its statement said. “The adoption of LTE service is the only solution to address the surging wireless data traffic. LG Uplus, which has no attachment to its existing networks, will make the most aggressive investment.”
LG Uplus estimated that the number of smartphones and tablet PCs will reach more than 40 million units in South Korea by 2015 and wireless data traffic will explode 200 percent every year.