5 Articles for 'SK Telecom'

  1. 2009/09/15 SK Telecom App Store: No Shortage Of Criticism (1)
  2. 2008/11/05 Korea's leading games company... turning into a family business? (4)
  3. 2008/07/17 Should SK Telecom buy Sprint? (3)
  4. 2007/11/21 The future of mobile carriers is here. It's called SK Telecom (2)
  5. 2007/09/17 Can you imagine Vodafone launching a Twitter clone? (2)

SK Telecom App Store: No Shortage Of Criticism

Mobile | 2009/09/15 00:54 | Web 2.0 Asia

Picture from Digital Times

Perhaps SK Telecom shouldn't have launched their newest app store, dubbed "T-Store". There had been a lot of hypes before its launch, but when the SKT T-Store finally got unveiled, people got massively disappointed, if not shocked: Users can browse apps on the web via dedicated PC application, just like on the iPhone app store, but when it comes to downloading the purchased apps, the only possible channel in most cases is via the expensive 3G network -- No download via PC application or Wifi supported (link in Korean). 

If someone not subscribed to data unlimited plan downloads a mobile game from SKT app store, he will have to pay around $4-5 for the 3G network usage alone, in addition to paying for the game itself. SKT doesn't give specific warnings on the data charges to be incurred on their app store; Also SKT is charging normal data fees on app store, not the smartphone data fees (about half the price). 

Anyone even remotely familiar with iPhone app store wouldn't even call this an app store. This is a PR disaster for SKT too, as they witness an outpouring of complaints from media reporters and bloggers. Twitter is also filled with those "What were they thinking?" twits. 

SKT says WIPI is to blame, as WIPI does not allow content download via PC application (the so-called "side loading"). WIPI is the mobile application standard that Korea had kept for a long time, until about a year ago. That might be true; SKT may not have any control over WIPI. But there are things SKT does have a far better control -- things like supporting Wifi on smartphones and lowering the expensive 3G data charges. Believe it or not, while Korea is home to some of the fiercest iPhone fighters (Samsung and LG), most smartphones sold in here do not carry Wifi functionalities altogether, presumably at the request of carriers. Interestingly enough, there is a study (link in Korean) that suggests carriers would actually lose more money if they don't support Wifi, as more 3G usage would mean even heavier investment on building the 3G infrastructure. 

TAG SK Telecom, SKT, T-Store, wipi

Korea's leading games company... turning into a family business?

Other | 2008/11/05 14:38 | Web 2.0 Asia

Songyee Yoon is little known outside of Korea, but she's quite a figure in the nation. She became the youngest VP at SK Telecom, a huge telco, at a mere age of 28. This was after getting her PhD from MIT at 24 and working at McKinsey. (Hey, what the heck was I doing at 24?)

Think of her as Korea's Marissa Mayer - the two share many traits such as being smart, good looking, and being on the fast lane at a successful tech company. 

Now, add to that "having dated with a founder of a $1bn+ company" - Marissa with Larry, Songyee with NC Soft founder/CEO TJ Kim. (NC Soft is Korea's leading online games company, famous for its Lineage online MMORPG games.) Perhaps a difference there is that Songyee eventually got the ring, while Marissa didn't yet. (Songyee and TJ Kim got married in fall last year.)

With the inks on their nuptual agreements barely dry, Yoon is coming on board at her husband's company, NC Soft, as Chief Strategy Officer. Yoon has thick grey matters, no doubt about it, but I don't know if NC Soft and Yoon, whose specialty lies in artificial intelligence, can be the best fit. Besides, Yoon's joining the company essentailly makes NC Soft a family business (doesn't it?), and I don't think I have seen that many successful internet companies that are essentially family businesses. 

I'm just hoping the couple, both super smart, will let the creativities of other NC-ers blossom as well as flexing their own creative muscles. Last thing they want is to create two hurdles to overcome/convince, instead of just one.
TAG NC SOFT, SK Telecom, Songyee Yoon

Should SK Telecom buy Sprint?

Mobile | 2008/07/17 00:35 | Web 2.0 Asia

CNBC reported Korea's #1 mobile carrier SK Telecom is in talks to acquire Sprint of the US. This is definitely not the first time SK Telecom was rumored to be interested in such a deal.

Should SK Telecom buy Sprint? I think so, given these:

1. SK Group has a fairly deep pocket and has a track record of hit acquisitions, so they will probably make this work right. Sprint is bigger than SK Telecom, but if we talk about the whole SK Group instead of SKT as a single company, it's a whole different story. This is relatively little known outside of Korea, but SK Group, Korea's #3 chaebol (after Samsung Group and LG Group), practically built itself through successful acquisitions. SK Telecom itself was an acquisition, and SKT has been quietly gobbling up content companies including Cyworld over the years. Of course there were some bad deals too (did someone just say Helio?), but you win some and you lose some, right? I believe there are more than enough # of smart guys at SK Group who will make sure a deal of this magnitude won't go sideways.

2. For SK Telecom, which is thriving in the Korean market but has been pretty much nonexistent outside the country, gaining an international presence is the name of the game. You can rule the Korean market as much as you want, but you're still limited to about 20-25 million subscribers range (Korean antitrust law demands SKT to keep its market share to about 50%). Sprint will give them a pretty nice presence in the ever-important US market, as well as a decent number of subscribers.

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Image from Google

3. Sprint will be a much better platform on which SK Telecom can roll out advanced handsets and services, than Helio was. Remember Helio users (albeit very few) were quite happy with their slick phones and their ARPU was a whopping $80. SK Telecom can introduce interesting mobile services running on slick phones (such as the Samsung Instinct). Of course it will be a huge challenge to stack up against the iPhone and its app store.

But even if SK Telecom indeed buys Sprint, one thing they should never ever do is to try to inject Korean blood (human resource, corporate culture, services not localized enough, etc) into the American body. That doesn't work, and I'm sure everyone at SKT knows it by now very well, through their largely failed attempt to bring Cyworld to the US.
TAG cyworld, helio, SK Telecom, SKT, Sprint, Virgin

The future of mobile carriers is here. It's called SK Telecom

Mobile | 2007/11/21 01:17 | Web 2.0 Asia
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SK Telecom is Korea's top wireless carrier. Unlike some of other carriers which resemble ostriches with their heads buried in the sand, SKT had foresight and made acquisitions to place its bets across various multimedia businesses.

SKT companies now include:
  • SK Communications, which runs the ever-popular Cyworld
  • TU media, a DMB (DIgital multimedia broadcasting) service provider
  • Seoul Records (a record label) and Melon.com, Korea's top music download service - So SK telecom is a powerhouse of music industry, both online and off
  • IHQ, a talent agency and management company which has many K-wave stars under its roof
  • Ntreev, an online gaming company
  • Aircross, a mobile solution company
  • YTN Media, a cable channel running Comedy TV and YTN Star
  • Chungeorahm film, a major movie studio
  • Morning 365, an internet bookstore
  • Paxnet, Korea's top finance portal
And now, the company is planning to add Hanaro Telecom, the nation's #2 broadband service provider which also provides fixed telephone and IPTV services, to its army of affiliated companies.

Hanaro acquisition, when goes through, will be of magnitude that's no comparison to other acquisitions SKT has made so far. It will be big - about $1.2 bn big, to be exact. But monetary figures aside, the value Hanaro will be adding to SKT and the overall synergies to be created are what scare the SKT competitors.

So, SKT was smart and prescient enough to realize one day the wireless carriers will turn into "dumb bit pipes". SKT wanted to avoid this fate by diversifying into multimedia businesses, mostly through acquisitions. And they have made some great acquisitions - I mean, who among other wireless carriers have such diversified portfolio, spanning DMB, game, music, movies, entertainment, and even finance - and now poised to take over the broadband and IPTV services as well?

But does it mean SKT has successfully transformed itself from a wireless carrier into something totally different? Is SKT's innovation scale ranked right up there with Googles and Apples? That's a bit hard to say. SKT is still a wireless carrier by DNA, and many times, it shows. SKT doesn't seem to understand the ins and outs of new media business as thoroughly as, let's say, Apple does. Well, if we expect SKT to be as innovative as Apple, it might be a bit of stretch anyway.

All in all, there's no wonder SKT is among very few carriers in the world that know how to think ahead and make the right moves. In that sense, the future of wireless carriers is here, and it's called SK Telecom.

Only that the future of wireless carriers itself, at least for now, doesn't look terribly bright... Rumors like doesn't help so much either.
TAG DMB, game, hanaro, IPTV, Melon, music, SK Telecom, SKT, TU

Can you imagine Vodafone launching a Twitter clone?

Web 2.0 | 2007/09/17 20:02 | Web 2.0 Asia

Can you imagine Vodafone developing a Twitter clone, in-house? Probably not. But that's what SK Telecom, the number one wireless service provider in Korea (sort of Vodafone of Korea) seems to be doing, with its new Tossi service.

Tossi is essentially a microblogging service with a bit of social networking, which can be accessed from both web and mobile. So it's not so different from Twitter and Jaiku.

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In Korea, there's a well-known microblogging service called Me2Day. (I covered the service here). And it's commonly known that SK Telecom has been discussing business partnership with Me2Day. But for some reason SK Telecom decided to go its way and develop the service away. Someone at SKT must have said "Hey, a microblogging service? No sweat - we can build something like that in 2 weeks." That's just my speculation, but that's typicaly the way smart people at big companies think.

But the general opinion around the industry is SK Telecom should have just worked the partnership out with Me2Day instead of building its own service. That way, small companies can have an exit strategy and big companies can save time. That's why there are a lot of acquisitions happening in the Valley. Those guys in the Valley aren't exactly buying other smaller companies because they are generous, are they?

We know SK Telecom, like other big telcos, spent billions of dollars on securing the 3G bandwidth and they will do anything that will help them recuperate the investment. Well, if they want to recuperate billions of dollars, they should come up with a billion dollar plan - a plan that's a lot more fundamental and sophisticated than copying a several person company.

TAG me2day, microblogging, SK Telecom