Korean telcos tie up for LTE in disputed Dokdo

The three carriers will build a joint base station for their networks in rare partnership to defend the country's claim over the islets--the center of a territorial dispute with Japan.

South Korea's three telcos have teamed up to launch 4G long-term evolution (LTE) services on the disputed islets of Dokdo, also known as Takeshima in Japan.

The three carriers-- SK Telecom , KT Corporation and LG Uplus--said they filed a request with Dokdo authorities to build a joint base station for their networks late last month, according to a report Monday by the Korea Times.

"Koreans who visit Dokdo and even some Dokdo residents will use LTE networks from February at the earliest," an official from the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) told the news daily.

The telcos will initially use assets owned by KT, including microwave equipment for wirelessly transmitting data between the islets and the mainland.

"KT has decided to allow SK Telecom and LG Uplus to use our assets as the construction of a base station for LTE services there is well-matched with national interest and has greater symbolic meaning," said KT spokesperson Kim Yoon-jeong in the report.

The Korea Times noted SK Telecom and KT currently offers 3G WCDMA wireless services to the islets, while the smallest telco Uplus offers a CDMA-based service using KT’s microwave equipment.

The cooperation is surprising because LTE services have been a key battlefield for the telcos, the report pointed out. However, the carriers said they agreed to cooperate to defend the nation’s territory, which has been the subject of a territorial dispute with Japan spanning several decades.

Last month, South Korea had voiced its displeasure with Apple's map service on iOS6 for indicating both the Korean and Japanese names for the islets.

The islets, located in the East Sea, are estimated to have about 50 staff and residents and see over a hundred visitors everyday.