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Mobile carriers tap games to spur LTE growth
By Lee Minji and Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, July 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korean mobile carriers are targeting mobile games as a potential profit source and a driver of growth in the blooming long-term evolution (LTE) market, market watchers said Wednesday.

   The country's three mobile carriers are moving to expand mobile game platforms on their LTE networks as part of efforts to lure more users to the fourth-generation network that operates up to five times faster than the existing third-generation network (3G), they said.

   On Wednesday, LG Uplus Corp. unveiled a master plan to introduce a cloud game service that supports users in enjoying games on various mobile devices such as smartphones, tablet PCs and Internet Protocol TVs.

   The No. 3 mobile carrier said cloud servers download and install the game, which frees users from the hassle of purchasing game consoles or setting up bulky programs.

   LG Uplus said its nationwide LTE network will be an integral part of the new service.

   "The nationwide LTE network and other connectivity technologies will provide the most effective and genuine cloud game experience to users," company executive Chun Byung-wook said, noting how such service was unavailable via the relatively slower 3G network.

   "Cloud game will be one of the company's core LTE strategies and bring about an innovative change in the LTE market," said Chun.

   LG Uplus, which plans to open the service to users of rival mobile carriers, said it is in talks with global game developers such as SEGA and Warner Brothers to expand its cloud game line-up.

   The country's bigger mobile carriers have also voiced interest in providing LTE-powered game services as they step up efforts to stretch the extent of LTE contents.

   Top mobile carrier SK Telecom Co. has rolled out two mobile price plans specifically targeted for LTE game players and is set to add another plan to the list this fall.

   A price plan that was designed to promote Nexon Korea Corp.'s KartRider garnered more than 5,000 users and 380,000 downloads in two weeks since its release last month, according to SK Telecom.

   The company, which forged a strategic partnership with homegrown game giants Nexon and Neowiz Corp. earlier this year, plans to expand the variety of contents LTE network users can enjoy.

   KT Corp. has released four mobile network games that can be played on the LTE network and is set to expand its mobile game line-up in the second half.

   "Mobile services are moving from text to high-definition image and video. That is the mega trend," said KT President Pyo Hyun-myung, pledging to provide more high-definition contents via LTE network.

   "Faster speed is just one aspect of competitiveness of the LTE market. There's much more potential that mobile contents, such as games, can bring on," said an industry watcher.

   According to market research firm Strategy Analytics, global shipments of LTE smartphones are expected to grow around 10-fold from a year earlier to 67 million units this year.

   South Korean mobile carriers are betting on the new technology to tide over anemic growth in the local mobile market. The three players, which provided LTE services to a combined 6.1 million users as of end-May, hope to more than double subscriptions to 16 million by the end of the year.