LG Uplus leads 5G service with AR, VR features

A recent report reveals that LG Uplus is successfully differentiating its 5G service package through adoption of AR and VR features.

LG Uplus 5G

South Korea’s third-largest mobile operator, LG Uplus [Photo/VCG]


South Korea’s third-largest mobile operator, LG Uplus, has adopted a successful differentiation strategy through its augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) service portfolio in the country’s highly-competitive 5G race, according to a report by Strategy Analytics, a global consulting firm.

According to the report released on Sept. 12, LG Uplus has a 5G market share of 29 percent, or 9 percentage points higher than its overall retail market share in South Korea, which is facilitated by a strong focus on AR and VR content.

In the report, a case study on LG Uplus’s 5G strategies and market execution identified VR and AR services, which require higher download speeds compared to conventional video, as demonstrating the power of LG Uplus’s new network and giving consumers reasons to upgrade.

In order to seed the market by letting users sample the unique services powered by a faster network, LG Uplus has been bundling VR headsets with selected plans.

Moreover, LG Uplus also offers its subscribers a range of VR and AR content, including Pro Baseball, Golf, Idol Live, AR Live and VR live, delivering an immersive 5G media experience to a range of consumers.

“The baseball app targets users in their 30s and 40s, while the golf app targets those in their 50s and 60s,”said Park Jong-wook, vice presidentin charge of the mobile service division at LG Uplus. “As the Uplus Idol Live app is designed to target those in their teens and 20s, we are setting up our business portfolio to encompass a wide range of generations,” he added.

According to a consumer survey conducted in June by Kantar Korea, the ratio of choosing Uplus for the company’s competitive 5G services (including AR and VR) was two to three times higher than that of its competitors.

Phil Kendall, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “In markets like South Korea, where many 4G users will be happy with their service experience and not feel any need to upgrade for a better network experience, operators must develop a service-based marketing story around 5G.” He explained that VR and AR content fit South Korean cultural and sporting interests well and will “work well in other markets in those customer segments with strong affiliations to celebrities or social media stars.”

The report concludes that, in a highly competitive market where differentiation on network quality and pricing is difficult, the LG Uplus operator has successfully used AR and VR content both as a compelling case for business-to-customer 5G services and as a source of exclusive content driving customer acquisition.

LG Uplus launched its 5G network in early April along with local competitors KT and SK Telecom, and has 540,000 5G customers to date. In cooperation with Huawei, the leading 5G provider, it has delivered more than 25,000 5G base stations across the country. The two companies have been working together to develop ultra-HD video and VR services based on 5G networks and to enable new 5G commercial applications.

According to a recent report from RootMetrics by IHS Markit, LG Uplus’s 5G network stood out with the most consistent speed performance among all South Korean mobile operators.

KT boasts of 1mn 5G subs and European roaming deals

KT has announced its 5G subscriber base has gone past the one million mark and it has entered into 5G roaming agreements with operators in Italy, Switzerland, and Finland.

KT, South Korea’s second largest operator, announced that it has won one million 5G subscribers five months after the service was launched, and one month after its competitor, SK Telecom, the country’s biggest operator, hit the milestone.

Meanwhile, KT has also reached 5G roaming agreements with TIM in Italy, Sunrise in Switzerland, and Elisa in Finland. This means that KT’s 5G subscribers will be able to use the 5G networks provided by those three operators in the three European countries.

KT has standing agreements with operators in 185 countries for 3G and LTE roaming. The operator aims to extend those agreements to 5G when 5G services go live in those countries. Prior to the agreements with the three European countries, KT had already set up a similar agreement with China Mobile, despite the fact it hasn’t launched services yet.

According to KT’s price proposals at the time of 5G launch, customers on the starting package (paying KRW 55,000, or $46 per month) will have 8 GB roaming data while overseas, with the speed capped at 1 Mbps. Those on higher tiers (paying KRW 80,000 ($67) or KRW 100,000 ($84) per month) will have unlimited roaming data, but the speed will be capped at 100 Kbps. Customers on the premium tier of the 5G service (KRW 130,000, or $109, per month) will have the speed limited lifted to 3 Mbps.

KT is not the first South Korean operator to tie 5G roaming partnerships. SK Telecom 5G subscribers will be able to connect to Swisscom while travelling in Switzerland, while those on LG U+ will be able to connect to China Unicom’s 5G when travelling to its neighbouring country, after the latter’s 5G service goes live.

The only catch for KT 5G users intending to visit Europe is that the roaming can only be done on Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the vendor’s first 5G smartphone, though KT said the service will be extended to other devices soon. Earlier this month, at IFA in Berlin, Samsung announced that it had already sold 2 million 5G smartphones and expected to double the volume to 4 million by the end of the year.

Korean operators make pact to avoid undermining each other on 5G

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus have all agreed to launch 5G services at the same time to avoid the potentially blood-thirsty race in pursuit of the ‘first’ accolade.

According to The Korea Herald, the three telcos came to the agreement in a meeting with Yoo Young-min, the Minister in charge of the Ministry of Science and ICT, with the targeted launch date set as March 2019. While it is certainly a nice gesture, whether the telcos are able to stick to such a commitment remains to be seen.

“It is important for mobile carriers to avoid heated competition for the title of world‘s ‘first’ 5G service provider in order for Korea to become a nation that can commercialize the 5G service for the first time in the world,” said Yoo.

Although this situation should be viewed as the exception not the rule, this is a familiar sounding message. The development and standardization of 5G was painstakingly thorough partly with the ambition of all operators crossing the line together, preventing a fragmentation of the technology, and in turn, interoperability. Should the operators stick to their promise of March 2019 launch, the paranoia over competition could be removed, rushed decisions can be eradicated and deployment should be effective. Racing to the finish line can lead to mistakes, but a collaborative approach like this should put Korea in a very good position overall.

Last month the much anticipated Korean auction for 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands for 5G services was completed. For the 3.5 GHz band, SK Telecom spent roughly $1.1 billion for 100 MHz of spectrum, with KT paying a bit less, $870 million, for the same. LG Uplus bagged 80 MHz for $728 million. Honours were even for the 28 GHz band, with each collecting 800 MHz. The trio will be free to start using the bands from December, hopefully leaving enough time to thoroughly test enough use cases ahead of the March deadline.

Whether the loving trio can keep on good terms for another eight months remains to be seen, but the friendly route might just work out in everyone’s favour in the long run.