Site: Korea Telecom
143-181, 680-40 Jayang-dong
Kwangjin-ga, Seoul, Korea

Date Visited: June 2, 1997

WTEC: J.N. Pelton (report author), J. Evans



Korea Telecom (KT) is a 60,000 person organization which uses fiber optics, coax, wire, wireless (LMDS) and satellite technology to provide telecommunications, including long distance and international services, to Korea. It currently has about 87% market share, with the remainder of the fixed telecommunications services provided by its competitor Dacom. By July 1997 a third competitor for services was to be created, as a new telecommunications provider in the form of a consortium. Dacom and KT will be allowed to invest no more than 5% each in this new entity and other existing organizations will be allowed to invest no more than one-third. The partners in this consortium will come from organizations already in the telecommunications business.

KT is the Korean signatory to INTELSAT and Inmarsat and also an investor in ICO Global, the land mobile satellite spin off of Inmarsat. With the deployment of Koreasat-3, however, KT will be providing competitive regional services to INTELSAT. KT is currently wholly owned by the Korean government, but is moving toward privatization, although the schedule is not yet set and the issue of the final ownership, control and operation of Koreasat, which was a KT project, has not been clarified by the Ministry of Information and Communications. KT revenues for the year prior to the visit were approximately $7 billion, of which $500 million or 7% of earnings were re-invested in research and development. Both revenues and investment in research were up from the previous year. In 1991, for instance, only 4% of net revenues were re-invested in R&D. The KT Satellite Group employs approximately 250 people. This organization largely carries out applied, near-term research and strategic planning rather than basic research, which is financed through contracts at KARI, KIAST and especially ETRI.


The Koreasat-1, 2, and 3 satellites were manufactured by Lockheed Martin with Korean subcontractors. In the case of Koreasat-1 and 2 Korean participation consisted of LG Information and Communications (LGIC), which provided ground station equipment and communications system monitoring, and tracking, telemetry and command systems, while Korean Air supplied solar array substrates and the central structure of the satellites. In the case of the much larger and more sophisticated Koreasat-3 system, Korean participation has increased to 20% of the total contract value.

The most dramatic differences with Koreasat-3 are the provision of 3 Ka-band transponders providing 55.0 dBW EIRP. There are also 24 Ku-band transponders for fixed satellite service and 6 Ku-band transponders for direct broadcast satellite (DBS) services. This doubles the capacity of the first two Koreasats. There is, in addition to Ka-band coverage of the entire Korean Peninsula (North and South Korea), a broadly regional Ku-band beam covering all of Southeast Asia including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, as well as a 3 degree beam that could cover much of India, the most densely populated portions of China, or Japan.

Koreasat-3 is based on the Lockheed Martin A2100 bus and payload, and is to be launched by an Ariane launch vehicle in August 1999 to a geosynchronous orbit at 116 degrees E. It will have a 12 year projected lifetime plus 3 years of extended life. Koreasat-1 was launched on a Delta II on August 30, 1995, and Koreasat-2 was launched on a Delta II on January 16, 1996. These two satellites, currently located at 116 degrees, are to be repositioned to 113 degrees when Koreasat-3 is deployed.

Currently, KT is planning for the possibility of Koreasat-4. Satellite characteristics, its intended market, and the range of projected services are still under evaluation. It is possible that KT might instead consider such options as joining in partnership with one of the proposed new global Ka-band satellite systems, deploying one or more high altitude long endurance platforms (not currently a prime option until this technology is proven), or decide to rely on terrestrial fiber optic cable or wireless LMDS technology. It seems clear that in the new competitive market, KT will need to establish a much stronger market case to proceed and that it will be more reluctant to spend freely for R&D at ETRI, KARI or elsewhere, i.e., its current expenditure of 7% of revenues on research may be forced downward.

There are several key issues in this new satellite design. One is the extent and nature of regional Ku-band coverage. The most ambitious design would likely be a multibeam design with perhaps 30 to 40 beams of one degree width to cover much of the heavily populated parts of Asia and interconnected with on-board processing that is capable of handling broader band multimedia services.

The Koreasat systems are capable of providing fixed satellite services, direct broadcast satellite services, very small aperture terminal (VSAT) business services up to T-1 rates, satellite news gathering, TVRO service to support cable TV systems and other applications, such as satellite mobile data system services. It was noted that the Ministry of Information and Communications has awarded 24 new cable television licenses and that these systems are likely to be authorized in the future to provide interactive communications services. This means that Koreasat-4, if it is to be deployed, must be cost-effective with regard to conventional satellites, LMDS, cable television links or fiber optic systems. It was acknowledged that new interactive terminals that can receive video services and uplink broadband (i.e., 64, 128, 144 kbps or perhaps higher rates) would need to be available at $800 per household or less to be competitive. It was acknowledged that system availability rates in the Ka-band would be difficult to achieve at levels beyond 99.5%.


The most important decision for Korea's future development in the field of satellite communications is whether to proceed with Koreasat-4. There are key related questions of great significance as well, such as how technically demanding will be its design, how will future ownership and operation of Koreasat be carried out, and how strongly does Koreasat seek a large regional telecommunications market with such a new facility. The coverage of the direct broadcast beam of Koreasat-3 and 4 for all of the Korean peninsula also gives political significance to this project.

Published: December 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian