Tensions are growing among local network operators as they clash over the coveted title ― the world's first provider of the newest tri-band LTE-A service.
SK Telecom, the nation's largest telecom carrier, announced on Dec. 28 that it was starting a pilot programme allowing 100 customers to use the tri-band LTE-A service for the first time globally.
"The tri-band LTE-A will pave the way for the next fifth-generation wireless service in Korea," said Lee Jong-bong, network chief of SKT.
Its archrival KT, however, downplayed the claim, saying that the service using test-phones cannot be seen as commercialization of the service. KT, along with the smallest carrier LG Uplus, filed an injunction against related TV commercials run by SKT on Friday.
The tri-band LTE-A is the next-generation superfast wireless service based on Long Term Evolution technology, which is almost triple the speed of the current LTE service.
Now at a time when companies are not allowed to offer generous subsidies to attract new customers, they are making all-out efforts to win the world's first title as part of their marketing tools to attract the nation's tech-savvy consumers.
"Since the Mobile Device Distribution Improvement went into effect on Oct. 1, mobile carriers have suffered from sluggish sales. For them, the new service launch is a crucial opportunity to attract new customers," said an industry watcher.
SKT, the dominant market leader, has earned the world's first title for the LTE-A and broadband LTE-A services and now aims to repeat the success story with the newest tri-band LTE-A.
Smaller players KT and LG Uplus have also been upping the ante on service quality and speed. Especially, the No. 2 KT has narrowed the gap with SKT when it comes to network coverage.
Over the years, tech giants like Samsung and LG have also taken advantage of the publicity as they provide the latest phones to be run on the world's first and fastest wireless service.
On Monday, Samsung confirmed it provided its Galaxy Note 4 phones to both SKT and KT for their trial service of the tri-band LTE-A.
"We offered the phones for experience. Those for customer use will be provided in the near future," the company said, keeping its distance from the ongoing disputes.
Amid new claims, SKT and KT did not change their previous stance.