‘100 percent LTE’ claim sets off phone fight

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‘100 percent LTE’ claim sets off phone fight

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An LG U+ television commercial, left, says it offers “100 percent LTE,” with no 3G network interruption.” In response, SK Telecom’s commercial, right, says 100 percent LTE voice calls tend to disconnect. Provided by the companies

LG U+ may be Korea’s smallest mobile carrier, but it’s making a pretty big claim about being the only one to offer “100 percent LTE” in its new advertising campaign.

In television commercials, LG U+ insists that neither of the country’s other two carriers offers a “pure” fourth generation long-term evolution (4G LTE) service.

The claim drew a quick response from SK Telecom, the No. 1 mobile carrier, with ads challenging its competitor.

The advertising dustup has left many consumers confused about what 100 percent LTE means and how it differs from regular LTE services.

Although all three carriers offer LTE service, LG U+ in March 2012 was the first to build a nationwide LTE network.

In June this year, however, SK Telecom began offering LTE-advanced (LTE-A), the first provider in the world to do so. LTE-A can transfer data twice as fast as the existing LTE service, and SK Telecom trumpeted that fact to cement its No. 1 position.

LG U+ countered with 100 percent LTE, emphasizing that its customers get pure LTE in all their voice calls.

SK Telecom and KT do not offer voice calls through an LTE network as the default mode. When SKT and KT users start making voice calls, they are using a 2G or 3G network, which is slower and of lesser sound quality.

LG U+ began its “100 percent” marketing, in part, because it does not own a 2G or 3G network. When it comes to voice calls, LG actually has to use 4G LTE.

SK Telecom countered that 100 percent LTE is not exclusively LG U+’s technology, because all three carriers last year commercialized LTE voice calls, also known as high-definition voice or HD voice.

“All smartphones that started selling later than September last year, about 11 million units, are equipped with this function,” said an SK Telecom official. “Any subscribers with these smartphones can access the 100 percent LTE service if they want by selecting the HD voice function in the call setting section.”

However, most users tend to keep the default setting for 2G or 3G voice calls.

SK Telecom says its 3G network works slower than LTE, but claims it is more stable and has greater coverage.

“Cell phones become a lifeline in moments of crises,” the SK Telecom source said. “When using voice calls via 100 percent LTE, there is no other way to make a phone call in case of network disconnection. SKT chose to maintain 3G voice calls as a default setting because the stability of the LTE network has not been proven yet, compared to that of 3G.”

He explained that LTE voice calls may not be available in places like an elevator or basement floors of a building.

LG U+ contends that LTE network coverage is more than sufficient.

“Our 100 percent LTE voice call success rate is as high as 99.89 percent,” said Lee Sang-chul, CEO and vice president of LG U+.

Another LG official added that there is no need for a 3G network to back up LTE and that 100 percent LTE also uses less battery power.

Meanwhile, SK Telecom and LG U+ have put aside their differences to block KT from grabbing a bandwidth adjacent to its current bandwidth. KT could launch another LTE-A service if it succeeds in purchasing the bandwidth.


BY KO RAN [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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