Not many folks know this, but LG, the handset maker, has their own wireless network in South Korea. Known as Uplus, today the company is announcing that they’re the first operator in the world to cover an entire country with 4G LTE. According to TeleGeography, the high speed wireless network cost $1.1 billion to build and it supposedly covers “86 cities across the country, along all highways, and in subways, airports and train stations.” Are people actually using the network though? Yes. SK Telecom, the largest operator in South Korea in terms of customers, has 1.73 million people using 4G LTE. LG’s Uplus network has 1.46 million, which isn’t that bad considering that they’re South Korea’s smallest operator. Regarding the network itself, it’s using the 800 MHz band, though LG says they’ll also build out some 2.1 GHz coverage.
To put this announcement into some perspective, South Korea has a population of nearly 49 million people. America’s largest state, California, has just 37.7 million people. In terms of area, South Korea is about the same size as the state of Indiana, which has a population of 6.5 million people. All this is relevant because people in Europe don’t appreciate the difficulties that American operators face in building a network that covers such a huge amount of land, while at the same time people in America don’t appreciate just how dense population centers are in foreign countries.
So now the important question, when will America get nationwide coverage? Verizon has promised that their 4G LTE network will have the same footprint as their 3G network has today at some point during the end of next year. In other words, Verizon plans on covering the 48 contiguous states by Q4 2013. If they manage to do that, that would most certainly be an incredible technical achievement. It also helps that Verizon is using the 700 MHz band, which reaches farther out.