A Kbiz MNO ? SMEs vs Korea Inc

The Korea Federation of Small and Medium Businesses (KFSB or Kbiz) wants to join SK Telecom, Korea Tecom and LG U+ (LG Telecom) as Korea's fourth mobile network operator.

This bid looks like a complete joke : a Kbiz-led consortium of 900 small businesses would invest about KRW 100 bn (USD 94 M) in "4G Wibro". How could it succeed where much stronger players failed and where MVNOs themselves cannot thrive* ?

Kbiz claims 2.7 million SMEs, but I don't see this greenfield player take those demanding customers from the big boys.

WiBro, a WMAN technology competing with WiMax, remains a Koreano-Korean thing with a convenient 4G label. Typically, KT is advertising about their "4G WiBro" coverage as SKT launches its LTE as the "real 4G", but eventually all 3 MNOs will implement LTE. Note that KT is also willing to close its 2G CDMA networks and proposing nice 3G/4G plans to die hard users, some of which have been keeping prehistoric handsets because of unbeatable unlimited rates.

Kbiz needs Samsung to propose WiBro, and that could be the actual aim of the game : not the candidacy to a license, but the PR operation behind the announcement.

Samsung is the ultimate chaebol, the perfect symbol of those almighties who rule over Korean economy and are often blamed for the weakness of the nation's SME ecosystem. Worse : they create their own SMEs to benefit from pro-SME incentives and suck even more value from the market. Even LEE Myung-bak, the CEO president who came from Hyundai Engineering and Construction, is campaigning about a 'fair society' where chaebols would allow small fish to survive.

I don't know if Kbiz will really go all the way, or if Samsung will pretend to play their game for image's sake... but Korean market remains fun to observe.

mot-bile 2011

* see "
Korea : Onse Telecom wants to be a MVNO", "Korea Telecom signs the country's first MVNOs"...

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