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Korean big 3 telcos offer hassle-free and instant upgrade to Giga-class Internet without re-cabling construction
September 18, 2014 | By Steve Shin and Dr. Harrison J. Son (tech@netmanias.com)
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Then, what about SKB and LG U+?


SKB and LG U+ have different strategies. Unlike KT, these two are not targeting old apartment buildings with only phone lines, but ones built more recently or ones with additional UTP cabling installed at cost, that is those with Cat5 cabling. More than 5 million households in Korea are known to live in these types of apartment units.


To offer Internet and telephone services to households living in apartment units where UTP Cat5 cables (4-pair) are installed, Korean operators use 2 pairs of the lines inside a cable for Internet service (Fast Ethernet with 100 Mbps), and 1 pair for POTS phone service. And the last 1 pair is left unused.


According to the standards (for Gigabit Ethernet and Fast Ethernet), 1 Gbps requires all 4 pairs of lines (Cat5e) while 100 Mbps requires only 2 out of 4 pairs (Cat5). To achieve 1 Gbps speeds, all 4 pairs should be used, and cables have to be Cat5e. So, additional cabling is inevitable. 


To avoid this issue, that is, to support Internet speeds higher than 100 Mbps without additional installation of cables, SKB and LG U+ developed a new technology that can support up to 500 Mbps by using only 2 pairs of lines in existent Cat5 cables (bidirectional 500 Mbps at a distance of 100 m). Of course, it is not a standard technology.


SKB adopted HFR's new device specially designed for this purpose and launched a new service in June 2013. LG U+ had necessary devices developed by Dasan and ubiQuoss in last June, but no service commercialization plan has been announced so far.


Figure 3. SK Broadband's MDU broadband innovation - 500 Mbps with just 2 pairs


Figure 4. 2-pair Ethernet Switch and CPE by HFR


As seen above, KT's Giga service is different from those of SKB and LG U+ in that KT is targeting apartment units with only traditional phone lines as well as those with UTP cabling, whereas the other two are targeting only those with UTP cabling. No doubt that KT is No. 1 in broadband Internet service.


After almost a decade of stagnation in speed improvement, Korea is finally taking a long-overdue step forward toward Giga-class Internet service. For apartment buildings that were built recently and thus have optical fiber cables already installed, upgrading to 1 Gbps is easy. On the other hand, for older buildings, it requires installation of new fiber cables, which would apparently result in huge CAPEX. Given that, it is quite impressive that the big 3 managed to find ways to offer Giga-class service of 300 ~ 500 Mbps to users without fiber cabling.  



Table 1. Giga-Class Broadband Access Strategy in Korea: Summary


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