South Korean operators lobby Apple for LTE-enabled iPhone

With rampant rumors that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) upcoming iPhone 5, or whatever it is going to be called, will include LTE connectivity, South Korea's two largest mobile operators want to ensure it will work on their LTE frequencies.

According to the Korea Times, executives from SK Telecom and KT this week trekked to Apple's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters to lobby for inclusion in the iPhone's LTE plans. The device will reportedly be announced on Sept. 12, with domestic shipping to follow on Sept. 21 and international shipping to follow in early October. The new iPhone is widely expected to include LTE connectivity for the top U.S. operators' LTE frequencies, which would be 700 MHz for Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and 700 MHz and 1700/2100 AWS frequencies for AT&T (NYSE:T).

However, South Korea's LTE deployments are on different spectrum, with SK Telecom rolling out LTE at 800 MHz and KT deploying it at 1800 MHz.

The United States tops all other markets with 47 percent of global LTE connections, while South Korea took second place with 27 percent and Japan had 13 percent, said a recent report from Wireless Intelligence.

Apple ran into trouble with the spotty LTE support it enabled in its newest iPad. In March when the iPad was released, many North American fans were thrilled that the device's latest iteration features LTE compatibility, but iPad buyers outside of North America were considerably less than pleased to learn the device has no chance of working on LTE networks in their countries. In June, Apple agreed to pay the Australian government almost $2.5 million in fines and legal fees stemming from its promotion of 4G capabilities of the new iPad, which is incompatible with spectrum being used for LTE in that nation.

Both SK Telecom and KT are authorized Apple partners in South Korea, which has enabled them to sell the 3G-enabled iPhone and iPad. The iPad available in South Korea does not support LTE.

Apple's issues with LTE frequencies extend to the rest of the mobile industry, which has to contend with 38 different 4G LTE frequency combinations at play around the world. Industry players had hoped the current version of the iPhone, the iPhone 4S, would include LTE when it was launched, as that would have given a boost to the technology even if it were only supported in the United States. By supporting only 3G, the iPhone 4S has made operators continue investing in their 3G networks in order to support traffic generated by the iPhone while they also build out their next-generation LTE networks.

Such a scenario at this point would be a major issue in South Korea, where operators have heavily invested to roll out LTE nationwide. "'f Apple's upcoming iPhone again fails to support LTE bandwidths, then this would be a very disappointing scenario as LTE is everywhere in Korea,'' a high-ranking SK Telecom executive told the Korea Times.

SK Telecom has more than 4 million LTE subscribers, KT has 1.4 million and LG U+ has in excess of 3 million.

For more:
- see this Korea Times article

Special Report: The five most prominent iPhone 5 rumors

Related articles:
Verizon helps U.S. rule global LTE market with half of all connections
Report: U.S., South Korea propel VoLTE forward
SK Telecom: VoLTE, RCS and LTE-A carrier aggregation all on deck
Apple coughing up $2.5M to settle 'iPad+4G' dispute
Apple's iPad headache highlights LTE spectrum woes
Apple's iPad '4G' advertising claims draw European scrutiny
Apple's new LTE iPad goes on sale with Qualcomm, Broadcom components