updated 10:00 am EST, Fri November 9, 2007
SK Telecom Controls Helio
Korean communications giant SK Telecom today announced it was increasing its stake in Helio by $70 million, granting SKT unofficial control of the American cellphone provider and taking it away from partner firm EarthLink. The former had promised as much as $270 million in September but now says it has already provided $70 million of that amount to the virtual network operator. Aside from granting more control over Helio's ultimate direction, the investment will be used to expand Helio's still small subscriber base and improve the phone lineup, which includes the well-received Ocean but has rarely included more than three devices at any given time.
When the second infusion of money into Helio will come is uncertain, SKT says, though after its completion Helio is expected to largely survive on its own and may have to partner with another company in the future.
SK Telecom is currently the largest Korean cellular carrier and controls more than half of the market in its home country, which frequently helps the company dictate its choice of cellphones. To date, all of Helio's phones have been converted versions of handsets from Korean firms such as Pantech (such as for the Ocean) or Samsung.