Korea : 2G WiBro South, 3GSM North

North Korea (or at least certain parts of the hermitest kingless kingdom) has been enjoying 2G GSM since 2002. And for an even more restricted public since 2004, after the train explosion rumored to be an assassination attempt against KIM Jong-il.

Now the Dear Leader can enjoy movies on the go even outside of his personal bunker-train. CHEO Technology (a Korea Post & Telecommunications / Orascom - 25% / 75% - JV) was awarded a 25 year 3G W-CDMA license earlier this year and obviously started investing ($ 400 M for the network and the license).

Cross the border, China Unicom has been stripped of its CDMA network. New investments in online gaming (30% of Hong Kong's Magicgrids Networks and partnerships with its mainland China Magic Tech Network subsidiary) did not make up for this great loss for SK Telecom.

But the Dear South Korean Mobile Leader announced this week a successful real-time HD video trial of its Wibro Wave 2 : this 2G WiBro claims rates of up to 10Mbps / 37Mbps (up/downlink) will be rolled out across the capital (TTM H2 2008).

SKT wants to market Wibro Wave 2 cheaper than 1G WiBro. KT started its service much later but leads the market. Besides, it is merging its customer service units with KTF and the merger of the two companies seems everyday more probable.

And the competition is raging, forcing MNOs to slash prices for data (ie -30% for SKT phone-mail) and increase marketing expenses (+30% YOY for SKT 2008Q1 - handset subsidies frenzy is back). No wonder SKT's operating income went down 16.3% in 2008Q1.

The worst may be coming : as of July, USIM lock will end and Koreans will at last enjoy the fun of handset and operator switch.

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