10 Articles for 'SKT'

  1. 2009/09/15 SK Telecom App Store: No Shortage Of Criticism (1)
  2. 2009/07/28 A Glimpse into SK Telecom's App Store (3)
  3. 2009/06/12 Yet again, no iPhone for Korea (18)
  4. 2009/03/25 SK Telecom's Stealth Project: Create an iPhone-Fighter
  5. 2008/07/29 3G means profit hemorrhage
  6. 2008/07/17 Should SK Telecom buy Sprint? (3)
  7. 2008/01/11 Mobile coupon gaining popularity in Korea (1)
  8. 2007/11/21 The future of mobile carriers is here. It's called SK Telecom (2)
  9. 2007/11/14 So who is buying Sprint Nextel?
  10. 2007/09/24 Helio to become SK Telecom America? (1)

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

A Glimpse into SK Telecom's App Store

Mobile | 2009/07/28 20:17 | Web 2.0 Asia

These days, it almost looks like it's harder to find mobile companies that are not building their own version of app stores. SK Telecom, Korea's #1 wireless carrier, is of course no exception. Here's a short glimpse into SKT's mobile app store, still in closed beta, courtesy of this blogger

SKT's app store is called "SKT Mobile Open Market." To use SKT Open Market, one has to download a PC application first (called SKT PC Manager). Macs are not supported as yet.  

Inspired by iPhone App Store, SKT Mobile Open Market also allows users to download various types of multimedia content (full-length songs, movies, or other audio/video content) onto their phones. As this download happens over the internet, not over the air, users don't have to pay for expensive packet fees. This is a good news to many mobile users, who often have to pay $10 for packets to download a $3 mobile game

Of course, what makes an App Store an App Store are -- apps. SKT offers 6 different categories of apps -- entertainment, news/life, education, community, LBS, and utility apps. Currently there don't seem to be overwhelming number of apps available on SKT Mobile Open Market, but one can guess the number of apps will only increase, once the app store fully opens its door. 

On the other hand, there seems to be relatively richer volume of gaming content on the SKT Open Market, but as the reviewer says, all the games on the Open Market are already available on SKT mobile content site and can be downloaded wirelessly too. What will make the game download section far more interesting are large-file games that will turn high-end phones into full-fledged, Nintendo DS-fighting gaming devices. 

So far, SKT's app store doesn't seem to be breaking much of new grounds. It looks more like the extension of PC application-based content download site, which has been around for quite some time. Also, another limitation seems to be that content downloading only happens through SKT PC Manager application -- no downloading via WiFi. 

Yet again, no iPhone for Korea

Mobile | 2009/06/12 10:52 | Web 2.0 Asia

In the recent WWDC 2009, Apple announced iPhone 3G S and gave the list of countries the phone will be available - Korea wasn't included in the list this time again. Korea is just about the only developed country that doesn't have an iPhone yet. When countries like Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, and Qatar are getting their iPhones soon (nothing against those countries, by the way) and yet South Korea, the world's 11th economy, isn't getting one, there's something seriously wrong there. 

Including my friend Danny, Korean bloggers are not hesitating to express their disappointments over the no-iPhone news. Both SKT and KTF, the leading carriers of Korea, have been in talks with Apple to introduce iPhone in Korea, for quite a long time. But both companies seemed to have backed out a little bit now, saying they couldn't strike mutually beneficial business deals with Apple. Well, that's just a polite way of saying that Apple demanded too much. But then, given the huge success of iPhone, Apple may actually deserve to demand much. Now carriers have to admit Apple's got the upper hand in the smartphone game. 

But it might actually go deeper than that. Out of fear to become "dumb bit pipes", Korean wireless carriers have been working so hard to transform themselves into digital content empires by acquiring content companies and building a tight control over the content value chain. But iPhone is all about getting out of carrier value chain: web browsing on WiFi networks or App Store downloads have nothing to do with carriers. So the fact that the carriers haven't yet fully recouped their massive content investment might be the true reason, or at least part of the reason, why Korea still doesn't have an iPhone yet. 

TAG Apple, iPhone, KTF, SKT

SK Telecom, Korea's top mobile carrier, is rumored (link in Korean) to be undertaking a secret project called "Project G", or "Project Giant". 

What SKT wants to achieve through Project G is a bit murky now, but apparently the telecom giant wants to create a better mobile phone software platform, with a much improved UI (user interface). The platform/UI will likely see the light in new lines of handsets, to be OEMed by companies like HTC of Taiwan. 

All in all, this sounds very much like creating an iPhone- (or Android-) fighter. This comes on the heels of the news that SKT is also planning its own App store, a la iPhone App store. It remains to be seen if SKT's efforts to create yet another iPhone-like ecosystem will turn out ot be a good decision. But the project's codename "Giant" certainly shows the company hopes their new platform/UI/apps strategy to take off big time. 
TAG project giant, SKT

3G means profit hemorrhage

Mobile | 2008/07/29 15:02 | Web 2.0 Asia

If you are in the US, often the TV ads you most frequently see are those for new cars. Well if you are in Korea, you are almost drowned by the mobile carriers' 3G TV ads. Some are humorous, some dead serious, but all those ads try to send out the single message: Become a member of our 3G service. Like this TV commercial on KTF's 3G service, which is about giving old folks shiny new 3G phones as a gift. (Now they are targeting the old folks? Come on, apparently they are trying to squeeze the last drop out of the market...)

Worse, "marketing budget" for mobile carriers doesn't only mean TV commercial costs. In fact, TV commercials only take up a minor share of their marketing budget. There's subsidies, MNP (mobile number portability) benefits, commissions to be paid out to shops, etc.

As a result, Korean mobile carriers saw profit slide in Q2: SKT spent roughly US$ 880mm in Q2, while KTF spent around US$ 620mm. To put these numbers in perspective, KTF's marketing expenditure was 40% of their whole revenue (not of profit). Both companies saw their stock price go down after the profit announcements.

But as all major carriers spent big money on marketing, the market share among the three carriers turned out to have stayed largely the same. So why bother with marketing? one might ask. Of course if you are from advertising industry, you'd not ask that question, but would hope the carriers will forever stay on their marketing binge.

TAG KTF, marketing, Mobile, SKT

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

Mobile coupon gaining popularity in Korea

Mobile | 2008/01/11 11:12 | Web 2.0 Asia
Chosun Ilbo reports that in Korean market, mobile coupon is seeing increased use among young users. This is an encouraging sign, with the mobile internet service business in general being stagnant.

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Users present mobile coupon (which normally includes a barcode, as shown above - many shops in Korea has m-coupon barcode readers) to get discounts, or they can also forward their coupons to friends as a gift. While SMS ads are being recognized as "spams", mobile coupons are being even "welcomed" by many consumers, the article says.

SK Telecom's mobile coupon service, dubbed "Gifti-con", saw an year-over-year growth of 700% from 2006 to 2007.
TAG Mobile ads, mobile coupon, SKT

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

So who is buying Sprint Nextel?

Mobile | 2007/11/14 20:30 | Web 2.0 Asia
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There are a lot of rumors that to leverage mobile WiMax for its new Android mobile OS.

It's not the first time Sprint Nextel was involved in an acquisition rumor - earlier this year, there were speculations that Korea's SK Telecom might be acquiring Sprint Nextel. But SKT denied the acquisition rumor and has not made any such move yet. Instead, the Korean giant invested yet another $270M in Helio in September.

Even aside from the US activities, SK Telecom seems to be in an acquisition mode in Korea these days, with its plan to buy Hanaro Telecom. Hanaro is Korea's #2 broadband and landline service operator. If the acquisition comes through, SKT will become a true end-to-end service provider spanning mobile and broadband, fortifying its market-leader position.
TAG hanaro, hanarotelecom, Nextel, SKT, Sprint

Helio to become SK Telecom America?

Mobile | 2007/09/24 13:07 | Web 2.0 Asia

Techcrunch reported that, SK Telecom announced it will invest another $270m in Helio, which is expected to lose $340-$360m this year on a revenue of $140-170m.

With other MVNOs like ESPN mobile and Amp'd mobile busted, SK Telecom's move looks a bit dicey. But SK Telecom's mission seems to go beyond the boundary of the smallish Korean market. SKT also invested $1 bn for 6.6% stake in China Unicom (#2 Chinese mobile service provider) last June.

By the way, I found something interesting on the Wikipedia entry on SK Telecom, that the company kicks out people over 45:

At 45 years old the employee must leave the company and accept SKT's retirement package OR join SKT's "Manpower Surplus team" and continue to receive a salary but usually the shame of just sitting at a desk and doing nothing and the loss of retirement benefits is enough to make most employees leave.

This sounds pretty much true, but it was put pretty bluntly - especially given it's on the Wiki.