South Korea LTE auction likely in March 2013

Korea Communication Commission will auction licenses for the 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz spectrum, but KT and SK Telecom, which use the 1.8GHz band for LTE services, may be excluded to ensure competitiveness.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor
The three Korean telcos are jostling for additional LTE spectrum as consumers move toward 4G-enabled mobile devices.

South Korea is planning a new round of LTE spectrum auction in March, but the local regulator is considering excluding KT and SK Telecom from the auction to ensure market competitiveness. 

The Korea Times reported Tuesday the Korea Communication Commission (KCC) will auction the license for 1.8 gigahertz (GHz) and 2.6GHz spectrum bands, respectively, in March at the earliest. All three telcos KT, LG Uplus, and SK Telecom have all said they will participate in the auction, it added.
However, the regulator is also considering excluding either KT or SK Telecom, or both, from bidding for the 1.8GHz license given that both operators already use the frequency for their LTE networks. KT is currently using the 1.8GHz band as its main frequency for its LTE coverage, while SK Telecom uses it as the secondary frequency, the report said.

LG Uplus, the smallest of the three telcos, uses the bandwidth to offer 2G services only, it added.

A KCC official said in the report: "If it wins the auction, then KT will be able to provide much faster LTE network services. That's why SK Telecom and LG Uplus are trying to persuade the KCC to share the 1.8GHz frequency."

The 1.8GHz band is regarded as the "golden spectrum", and more than 42 international mobile carriers are offering their LTE services using the spectrum, the Korea Times pointed out.

An SK Telecom official, who chose only to be identified as Park, told the news agency that the KCC should ban KT from the auction to create fair market competition in the LTE space. KT, however, countered the charge by saying that radio frequencies are limited, so it should be allowed to bid for additional 1.8GHz frequency to offer its customers better services at better prices, the report said. 

Back in June 2011, the KCC had excluded SK Telecom and KT from bidding for a 2.1GHz spectrum license to prevent a possible monopoly and market distortion, as both telcos already have licenses for the frequency, a separate report by Yonhap News Agency noted.

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