SK Telecom again proved Korea as the leader of third-generation (3G) mobile network technology with the kick-off of the world's first commercial HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) service.
SK Telecom introduced today a first-ever 3.5 generation (3.5G) network HSDPA handset and announced the launching of the world's first handset-based commercial HSDPA network. The company has named the new service 3G+ (read 3G plus) to familiarize users with the HSDPA service.
The service launch signifies a major milestone for SK Telecom in both domestic and overseas markets. The company expects (1) the introduction of the high-speed network will change the rules of the Korean mobile communications market from membership-based competition to service competition. On the other hand, SK Telecom hopes to (2) speed up its advance into overseas markets by becoming the leading provider of HSDPA network technology in the currently 3G WCDMA-focused foreign market.
HSDPA, the upgrade of 3G WCDMA, is a global standard technology allowing video conferencing and high-speed, high-capacity data access to users. Together with EVDO, it is projected to expand to become the next generation network technology of SK Telecom.
HSDPA technology theoretically offers a maximum download speed of 14.4 Mbps, with the current launch device supporting mobile data connections up to 1.8 Mbps. The downlink speed is expected to be able to reach 3.6 Mbps by early next year, 7.2 Mbps by the end of next year and 14.4 Mbps by 2008.
SK Telecom's HSDPA Service is currently available in 25 major cities, including Seoul, Incheon, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon and Jeju. The company plans to quickly extend its network to cover to a total of 84 cities in Korea, aiming to provide full service across the country. SK Telecom hopes to sign up a total of 300 thousand subscribers by the end of 2006.
SK Telecom kicks off its service with the world's first HSDPA handset, Samsung W200, released today. LG's HSDPA device, SH-100, will also be in stores by June and four to five other models will be added by year-end. The W200, released today, is a slide-up satellite DMB phone with a 2.0 mega pixel camera selling for a little over 700,000 won. However, the actual handset cost is predicted to be around 400,000 won after subsidies, since HSDPA members are expected to receive equal benefits as new WCDMA subscribers, who are automatically granted handset subsidies worth 300,000 won regardless of their service term.
SK Telecom's new service brand 3G+ implies the company's determination to provide 3.5G service, an improved and upgraded service with video calls and ultra-speed data transfers that brings a "+(Plus) Life" compared to the current 3G mobile network experience.
The upgraded 3G+ HSDPA service includes characteristics like (1) high-quality video call service, (2) ultra-speed data transfer and (3) efficient global roaming, the company aims to maximize the quality of service and create a more sophisticated mobile lifestyle for its customers.
(1) High-Quality Video Call Service
3G+ shifts the focus of mobile phones from audio to video format. With HSDPA, users can break free from the voice service centered market and revolutionize their mobile communication through various features like video calls, video chat, video Color Ring and video mailbox. The new 3G technology will also expand video call service by including web-to-phone services and Internet phones (VoIP) as well as basic phone-to-phone video conferencing.
(2) Ultra-Speed Data Transfer Service
Every 3G+ phone comes equipped with a rich QVGA (320x240 pixel) screen that allows users to view high-resolution video content three times the quality of video material from JUNE service. QVGA-quality contents will initially include movies, education programs and later on apply to all multi-media contents of 3G+. In addition, the high uplink speed will boost the supply of various user created contents, which will bring a wide array of mobile contents to customers.
(3) Efficient Global Roaming
3G+ offers WCDMA automatic global roaming with 10 different mobile service providers in seven regions such as Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Italy and France. Global roaming will expand to include European countries such as England, Spain and WCDMA-serviced areas in Asia such as the Philippines and Malaysia.
With these key services in place, SK Telecom aims to strengthen its convergence features by connecting communications and broadcasting while also merging various day-to-day services into the mobile phone. Consequently, the company is continually developing technologies to add everyday services, such as traffic card, membership card and coupon features, and monetary services, such as M-bank, credit card and MSTOCK functions, to USIM cards. The leading mobile service provider also has plans to complete the development of a USIM card equipped with a traffic card function within the year.
SK Telecom is preparing to boost up HSDPA subscriptions with a new video call rate, named the W Standard Rate, which will soon be offered to 3G+ members. The company is also dishing out various promotions on video and data call services.
3G+ currently offers a basic pay-as-you-use calling plan that charges a video call rate of 120 won (and 80 won during non-peak hours) per 10 seconds. And until June 30, 2006, the data rate of HSDPA service will maintain a fixed rate of 1.3 won per packet (0.5K), which differs from the CDMA rate that charges 1.3 won to 6.5 won per packet.
SK Telecom gives out a variety of limited-time promotions aimed to attract new 3G+ subscribers.
The company provides one free video conference call worth up to 180,000 won (around 300 minutes) to each user joining the HSDPA service by June 30, 2006. Subscribers are also offered video call promotion rates, such as Video Call 10 (flat rate of 10,000 won with 72,000 won worth of free video call minutes), Video Call 20 (flat rate of 20,000 won with 252,000 won worth of free video call minutes) and Video Call 30 (flat rate of 30,000 won with 720,000 won worth of free video call minutes). The three Video Call rates are offered for a limited time to members who join the service before June 30, 2006. The discounted promotion rates stay in effect until September 30, 2006.
The Data Free Rate, which currently provides unlimited mobile Internet connection to data services for a flat rate of 26,000 won, is offered to HSDPA subscribers at a discount price of 16,000 won until June 30, 2006. Also, each subscriber can enjoy one free data call service worth 13,000 won.
Mobile subscribers of the dialing prefix 010 wishing to join 3G+, SK Telecom's new 3.5G mobile communications service, can easily switch services by utilizing the mobile phone number portability service. However, non-010 subscribers need to join 3G+ as a new member and convert to a 010 number.
"We are proud to launch our new brand 3G+, which marks the beginning of the world's first HSDPA service. We hope the brand will help familiarize users with HSDPA and create a more sophisticated mobile lifestyle for our customers", said Bang Hyung Lee, the Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer of SK Telecom. "We believe the widespread commercial service of HSDPA will bring new opportunities to SK Telecom as we accumulate the know-how of the more global WCDMA technology based cellular service in addition to our fully developed CDMA based service".