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The Korea Communications Commission (KCC), wrapped up its most recent spectrum auction this week.

Three bands of spectrum; 800MHz, 2100MHz and 2300MHz were up for auction. The regulator raised some KRW1.15 trillion (US$1.1 billion) in the auction.

SK Telecom (51% market share) and KT Corp (31% market share) control just over 80% of the country’s mobile market, while LG Uplus has a 17.8 percent share.

They all plan on offering LTE on the new spectrum. That includes Korea Telecom,which had been a big supporter (and inventor) of mobile WiMAX.

  • SK Telecom was the biggest spender, paying 1 trillion won ($926 million) for 20 megahertz in the 1.8 GHz band. The 20 MHz chunk was thought ideal for LTE.
  • KT Corp dropped out of the 1.8 GHz race but got 800 megahertz licenses that were 10 megahertz wide for 261 billion won.
  • LG Uplus picked up 20 megahertz of spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band, at the minimum price of $412 million. The Korean government prevented SK and KT from bidding on the 2.1 GHz spectrum as it wanted to open up that band for new entrants. LG ended up the sole bidder for the license.

Currently, SKT has a 30 megahertz bandwidth of the 800 megahertz range and 60 megahertz bandwidth of the 2.1 gigahertz range, while KT has 20 megahertz bandwidth of the 1.8 gigahertz range and 40 megahertz bandwidth of the 2.1 gigahertz range.

With operations already in the 2.1 GHz band, LG is expected to be able to immediately begin using its new spectrum assets. Their 2.3 GHz spectrum may use TD-LTE, while KT and SK are likely to use FD-LTE on their 800 MHz and 1800MHz bands.

The price per MHz per capita of population in 2100MHz spectrum auctions, 2010–2011, shows Korea’s price a bit above average, despite LG Plus paying a bargain basement price.

Five blocks in the 700-megahertz band (between 698 megahertz and 806 megahertz) will also be available in South Korea from 2013 when analog TV broadcasting will be completely replaced by digital broadcasting.

South Korea’s ill-fated MBSAT S-DMB system combined video and audio service using the 2.6GHz band. The hybrid broadcasting system handled both direct satellite reception and terrestrial repeaters on the 2.6-GHz band.

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