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What's GiGAtopia envisioned by Chairman Chang-gyu Hwang of KT? (GiGa FTTH, GiGA Wire, GiGa Path)
June 26, 2014 | By Dr. Harrison J. Son (tech@netmanias.com)
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KT’s Vision: GiGAtopia

Source: KT

 

What? 

Chairman Chang-gyu Hwang of KT (with sales of KRW 23.8 trillion in 2013), at a press conference held at KT Olleh Square in Gwanghwamun, Seoul on May 20, announced that "KT will open up a new age of GiGAtopia by investing KRW 4.5 trillion (USD 4.4 billion) in GiGA FTTHGiGA Path (heterogeneous networks convergence technology that combines LTE and Wi-Fi networks), and GiGA Wire (copper wire-based transmission technology) for the next three years." 

 

Through this investment, the company first plans to provide Giga-class wired Internet services such as GiGA Wire (300 Mbps) and GiGA FTTH (1 Gbps), which are three times and ten times faster than the current 100Mbps, respectively. The company also plans on accelerating the wireless Internet access three folds by employing heterogeneous networks convergence technologies (e.g. IFOM) that combine LTE and Wi-Fi networks.    


With these new Giga-infrastructures, Chairman Hwang estimates that the company will aim to commercialize UHD TV services (15~20 Mbps) by the end of the year, and employ its video streaming technology, 'Olleh Power Live (eMBMS)', to cover more key service areas in Seoul by the end of June, allowing users to watch various contents in HD resolution (max. 4 Mbps), 10 times better than the current DMB TV.  

 

GiGAtopia is all about high speed.

 

Why? 

In 2013, the company faced an 'annual deficit' for the first time due to sales declines in its wired service division combined with a near-stagnant subscriber growth in the wireless service division. To make matters worse, the constant disharmony and non-cooperation among members in the company have led to KT's worst year, both internally and externally.

 

Chairman Hwang took office on January 27, 2014. With the company still recovering from its devastating year's poor performance, he, as a result, has been busy dealing with a series of non-stop issues and incidents ever since then. He had to make an apology for leakage of personal information of 1.2 million customers in his first official press conference.

 

On March 14, the company was even ordered to suspend marketing to a new customer base for 45 days. In addition to that, he had over 8,300 employees voluntarily resign to help the company overcome the management crisis that it was facing in April.    

 

Under such dire circumstances, KT desperately needed a solution that could have all of its members re-united, and eliminate the market's concern about the company. Thus, the idea of GiGAtopia was born. GiGAtopia is all about high speed.

 

Just as he won a capacity battle while serving as a former head of Samsung Electronics' semiconductor business, by doubling flash memory capacity every year, Chairman Hwang is trying to win another battle - a high-speed Internet battle - now in the communication market. The company plans to provide Gbps-level, wired and wireless, Internet services.

 

The company introduced the concept of GiGAtopia, which integrates the various technologies and services it has been developing for many years. KT said it would invest KRW 4.5 trillion over the next three years, and through the investment, would position itself as a leader in the mobile communication industry, domestically and globally.    

 

Later in a forum titled "the 20th anniversary of Korean Internet commercialization and the GiGA age" held at KT Olleh Square on June 19, Mr. Seong-mok Oh, head of the Network Business Division at KT, announced the company would commercialize GiGA FTTH and GiGA Wire in the second half of this year.

 

Finally, KT is about to make a long-delayed leap from 100 Mbps - which has remained unimproved for 9 long years since its launch of FTTH service back in 2005 - to 1 Gbps.

 

[Before GiGAtopia: See Broadband Access Network Acritecture in Korea (As of July 2014)]

 

How? 

GiGA Internet (GiGA FTTH)

GIGA Internet service can boost the capacity of the ultra-high speed Internet to 1 Gbps, 10 times faster than the current speed of 100 Mbps. This service will be available for those who have UTP or fiber installed at home. 

 

(As of April, 2014, KT has 8.0 million broadband subscribers. 35.1% of them (2.82 million) are connected by UTP cables, and 47.7% (3.83 million) are connected by fiber cables.)  

 

All the FTTH services currently available from South Korea's big three operators can support only up to about 100 Mbps in UL/DL, at most. That's why GiGA Internet is Chairman Hwang's No. 1 priority in his speed battle.

 

GiGA Internet is also an E-PON based network, much like current 100 Mbps FTTH networks. ONTs currently installed at customer homes must be replaced by new giga ONTs (ones with GE LAN ports). KT has been replacing ONTs in selected areas since last year, and has also started switching OLTs in COs to ones with higher-capacity (capable of covering 5,000 ONTs, and supporting 10G PON ports and 10 GE uplinks) this year.  

 

Migration to GiGA Internet (1 Gbps to the home)

 

For this GiGA Internet service, network infrastructures required for provision of the service have been built; however, no specific product has been released yet. This is because there have been issues regarding the pricing policy of the service. 

 

Once KT begins the service, it will have to deal with increased costs of investment in access lines (Giga ONT, high-capacity OLT/10 GE PON). Not only that, costs of investment in backbone networks will also rise due to increased backbone traffic resulting from installation of Gbps-level access lines and more importantly because of fast-growing free-riding traffic like P2P. This has been the biggest concern for KT. To address these issues, various measures like partial volume-based charging, limited traffic for heavy users, etc. have been proposed. The company has already submitted a pricing plan that reflects the suggested measures to the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning for approval. Negotiations between the two are taking place for finalization of the plan.


If KT wants to begin GiGA Internet service in the second half of this year as it proudly announced, the pricing issues must be handled first. As noted earlier, KT has to make significant investment before launching the service. Besides, most of South Korean network vendors have recently been struggling in a bad economy. Given that, the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning is expected to approve the pricing plan suggested by KT, eventually. 

 

GiGA Wire

47% of households in South Korea live in condominiums or apartments. This results in lots of high-density residential areas, consequently allowing for very short last-mile distances. Thanks to this unique nature of housing in this nation and the abundant fiber-optic cables deployed nationwide, South Korea has been recognized as a global leader in ultra-high speed Internet services and technologies since the early 2000s. More than 60% of the nation's households have UTP or fiber cables installed in their homes. Despite South Korea's highly developed access infrastructure, 9.3% (1.8 million) of the households still use the existent twisted pairs to access the Internet.  

 
This may not sound like a big market in South Korea. But, operators still have to provide solutions that can cover and serve all households with different cabling environments. Because of this, the South Korean big three operators have been developing solutions that can support hundreds of Mbps for those who are still using the original, old twisted pair-based Internet service. For KT, GiGA WIRE was the product of such efforts.  

 

 

Migration to GiGA Wire (300 Mbps to the home)

 

GiGA Wire is for users who live in old houses or apartments where only a twisted pair of cables are installed. By employing G.hn (ITU-T) technology, the service will support 300 Mbps in DL (three times faster than the current VDSL's 100 Mbps) and 100 Mbps in UL, or 200 Mbps in DL and UL. This service is scheduled to be available in the second half of the year.

 

GiGA Wire is KT's proprietary technology, and not one of the standardized technologies. The technology was designed by KT, chips used were supplied by a chip vendor Marvell, and GNT and GAM that function as a modem and DSLAM in VDSL respectively were provided by ubiQuoss.

 

GiGA Path

GiGA Path is a heterogeneous network convergence technology that improves transmission rates of mobiles by combining LTE and Wi-Fi. It can be roughly divided into two types: app-based and network-based.

 

In case of an app-based approach, there is no separate gateway in the network. Instead, it works as an "app" in a smartphone so that data can be sent or received through either LTE or Wi-Fi between the service app in the smartphone and KT's streaming server in KT's IP network. KT has named this technology as "Always Best Connected (ABC)", and has employed it in its Olleh TV mobile apps and Olleh TV streaming server since 2013. Currently, this type can be used only for streaming services that are directly developed and operated by KT, and not for video streaming services by OTTs (like YouTube).


On the other hand, in case of a network-based approach, there is an anchoring point, like mobile IP HA (IFOM: IP Flow Mobility) or multi-TCP proxy server, to be used for diverging traffic. At the end of last year, KT succeeded in demonstrating the combination of LTE 150 Mbps and Wi-Fi 300 Mbps (802.11n) into 450 Mbps by using IFOM technology on the Galaxy Note 3. Now the company is considering furthering the employment of multi-Path TCP technology as well. This type of approach does not require interoperation with CSPs or OTTs, and as a result can be used in video streaming or file downloading by OTTs and CSPs.

 

Thus, it would only be natural for KT to stick to both the app-based approach (for transmitting its own contents) and network-based approach (for transmitting contents from other CSP or OTT).

 

 

Now that we are familiar with KT's GiGAtopia, we will find about evolution strategies of SKT and LG U+ in subsequent posts.

 

 

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