South Korea's three major telcos finally inked a deal that will open the way to full commercialisation of Voice-over LTE (VoLTE) services, by allowing subscribers to make VoLTE calls to those of its rivals.
The agreement between SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus finalises the full commercialisation of VoLTE services -- those in fourth-generation (4G) networks -- and also adds a panoply of new services.
It took three years for the country's three major telcos to agree on inter-carrier service fees and a payment system, since LTE-enabled voice service was launched in 2012. VoLTE cross-carrier services are slated to begin as early as November 20.
Before this deal, carriers only allowed VoLTE between its own subscribers. The country's Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning was intimately involved in the back-and-forth wrangling between domestic telecommunications companies known for hardball competition.
Another factor that caused the delay was ensuring call quality, as telcos had trouble making sure quality could be maintained when handed to another carrier or a landline. This is an issue still holding back the four major carriers in the United States, and blocking subscribers from enjoying the highest possible quality calls.
LTE was first deployed in South Korea in 2011. In the past, hyper-fast data networks were strictly the province of only data, and voice calls were made on old-fashioned 2G and 3G networks. With VoLTE, phone calls will be more reliable, connect faster, and have higher sound quality, carriers claim.
The deal also means South Korea, already well-known for having faster internet speeds and higher LTE and smartphone penetration than nearly any other country on the planet, is keeping its game fresh.
As well as this, the fierce competition among South Korea's Big Three moves to providing speciality services and features based on VoLTE, by promising many new voice-data convergence services for consumers.
SK Telecom already announced plans for a so-called "smart call transfer service" which allows users to make and receive calls with their computer using VoLTE. KT will use it in their GiGa LTE, Olleh Pop-up Call, and in Who Who, a service that blocks robo calls and texts. LGU Plus will use VoLTE in its Yoowa service.