South Korea’s Interconnected VoLTE Service Lifts Off

We announced back in June that South Korea’s mobile network operators would soon be launching the world’s first commercial interconnected VoLTE service with the support and backing of the government’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning department and, of course, the GSMA. At Mobile World Congress Shanghai in July, we presented an award to the Ministry as well as to the country’s mobile network operators, SK Telecom, KT Corporation, and LG Uplus to commemorate the achievement and to highlight it as an example for other markets to follow.

So it is with considerable excitement that we welcomed the announcement by Minister YangHee Choi on November 23rd that all of the country’s VoLTE-enabled subscribers were now fully commercially interoperable. This will impact around 35 million subscribers who will be able to enjoy higher quality calls and seamless switching between voice and video, as well as faster connection speeds on all three networks. Better still, this will all be based on existing pricing schemes with no additional cost to the subscriber.

This has been a real group effort. All parties formed a dedicated working group called the ‘VoLTE Inter-working Technology Consultation Group’, to complete the technical standards and specifications, overcoming a number of significant challenges such as ensuring VoLTE interoperability among networks, unifying the interface between networks and devices as well as ensuring the quality of service related to all VoLTE enabled handsets. The government completed its checks and confirmed the commercial interoperability of all subscribers on November 20th. On completion the government noted: “…the government’s plan is to assist in the creation of an LTE ecosystem in the data age by fostering the creation of a diverse range of convergent services which expand and push out the limits of VoLTE-based voice services through continuous cooperation with MNOs following the complete commercialisation of VoLTE interoperability.”

VoLTE-Enabled Handsets

In South Korea, there are approximately 90 different models of VoLTE-enabled handsets currently available to consumers including devices from LG, Pantech and Samsung amongst others. Users of dual mode 3G/LTE handsets will also be able to access the service by simply changing the settings on their handset. The native integration of IP communications in smartphones is accelerating quickly around the world with GSMA Intelligence estimating that VoLTE-capable handsets will rise to between 65 and 85 per cent by 2020. 4G LTE has also seen the fastest deployment and consumer adoption rate of any mobile telecoms technology, serving as the foundation for all-IP mobile applications. It has been launched by 418 operators in 143 countries to date, reaching 40% of the world’s population. According to GSMA Intelligence, between 2015 and 2020 there will be an estimated investment of $1.4 trillion in 4G infrastructure.

GSMA Network 2020 Programme

The GSMA’s Network 2020 programme is designed to help mobile network operators in the move to an all-IP world and help them deliver global interconnected all-IP communications services to consumers such as VoLTE, ViLTE, VoWiFi and RCS. Operators are in a unique position to offer secure, ubiquitous all-IP solutions with reach, reliability and richness and the transition from circuit-switched to all-IP communications will allow them to deliver an enhanced customer user experience that when interconnected with other operators offers truly global reach and scale. We have worked closely with South Korean operators and the Ministry on this incredible project and we hope that it will spark other markets into providing similar services to their customers in the future as well.

To find out more about the GSMA’s Network 2020 programme, go to

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