updated 11:40 am EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
Unique LTE frequencies may create problems
The two current iPhone carriers in South Korea, KT and SK Telecom, are in talks with Apple for LTE support in the next-generation iPhone, according to anonymous officials with the carriers in contact with the Korea Times. The underlying issue is that while the new iPhone is almost guaranteed to support LTE, KT and SK Telecom use separate frequencies for their LTE networks. KT wants Apple to support 1.8GHz, but SK wants 800MHz. SK reportedly sent an official to Apple's Cupertino headquarters earlier this week hoping to secure a deal.
Both carriers are thought to be worried about subpar sales if the new iPhone doesn't support their brand of LTE. Sales of the third-generation iPad have been weaker in Korea than in some other countries, since LTE is one of the tablet's key selling points, but Apple's implementation won't work in the region. In fact the iPad's LTE only works in Canada and the US, which earlier this year led to legal challenges, forcing Apple to change the way it markets the device outside of North America.
"KT is eager to narrow the market gap with SK Telecom and even LG Uplus in the fight for LTE-enabled devices," a KT source adds. "If the talks with Apple produce visible results, then we will rise as the top LTE service provider in Korea."
Apple has lagged behind other smartphone makers in adding LTE. The company may, however, have been waiting for the arrival of hybrid 3G/4G chips, which consume less power and space than discrete chips for each network type. Early LTE phones often had extremely short battery life.