Korean MNOs are still scratching their heads to find the optimal pricing system for Voice over LTE. LTE has been around for a while, but voice is basically using older routes (VoIP, 3G...).
VoLTE is not totally transparent for the user: theoretically, connections will come much quicklier, and sound quality will improve ("HD voice"). Of course, with the boom in smart device usages, the massive transfer of voice to data scares network owners. And the government is adding some pressure to prevent consumers from being charged too dearly (said consumers happen to vote for the next President this December).
One thing is sure: unlimited plans will not be offered as easily, and operators cannot abandon totally the time reference (minutes). More than ever, in-network calling will be promoted.
MNOs met to find common ground in the future, following the disclosure by KT of key elements of their LTE strategy ("HD Mobile Wonderland") and roadmap:
- "HD Voice" trials are under way for KT, with 300 testers and a target TTM of October 2012.
- August 1, 2012: LTE-only rate plans (see below), LTE roaming.
- September 2012: LTE upgrade for ABC Services (Always Best Connected is about seamless 3G and WiFi)
- October 2012: Joyn (HD "Rich Communications Suite") - HD Games by the end of the year
- November 2012: Olleh TV LTE upgrade from 500Kbps to 2Mbps
- Q3 2013 Multi Carrier LTE starting in Seoul. Quad Antenna
KT's LTE Warp, a service twice faster than standard LTE, already covers 84 cities nationwide, and all KTX lines. The operator aims at 4 million LTE subs by EOY 2012 (1.4 M nowadays), and stopped introducing new 3G smartphones. Note that Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE is also expected for October, and that KT's latest promotions are already preparing the transition, leveraging on the successful launch of Samsung Galaxy III LTE.
The LTE rates introduced in July ranged from KRW 37,400 to 137,500 (USD 37.5 to 119.6):
. LTE-340 (750 MB, 160 mn) adds a discount of KRW 7,700, and if you take the KRW 924,000 Galaxy III for a 24 month engagement, it will cost you KRW 68,200 (USD 59.3)
. LTE-1250 (25 GB, 1250 mn) adds a discount of KRW 33,000, plus KRW 32,000 for the smartphone, which adds up to KRW 141,667 per month (USD 123.2) over 2 years.
If you replace your phone, KT throws in a lot of free on-network calls to keep you onboard.
The LTE rates starting on August 1 allow data roll over:
. LTE-G650 (KRW 65,000): 6GB, 350 minutes + 3000 minutes in-network
. LTE-G750 (KRW 75,000): 10GB, 450 + 3000 minutes in-network
. LTE-1250 (KRW 125,000): 25GB, 1250 minutes + unlimited in-network (KT wired/wireless)
Now if they could do something about international calls...