Faster mobile networks will enable Hollywood to build out digital distribution pipelines and revenue streams but could create a bigger piracy problem
South Korea has long boasted the world’s fastest Internet connections, but the country is now looking to offer its citizens the world’s fastest wireless networks, as well.
SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest mobile operator, will launch a next-generation mobile network that offers twice the speed of its current LTE network and 10 times that of 3G services. The plan is to roll out the service in Seoul and 40 other cities. The network will only work on LTE-A capable smartphones like Samsung’s Galaxy S4. Around 60% of South Korea’s 33 million smartphone users use LTE networks, which will be available in 87 countries — including the U.S.– by the end of 2013, according to GSA.
South Korea’s faster LTE-Advanced network can transfer 150 megabits per second, and an 800 megabyte movie in 43 seconds. The country’s existing LTE network can download a movie within 80 seconds.
“LTE-Advanced will … give birth to new mobile value-added services that can bring innovative changes to our customer’s lives,” said Park In-Sik, president of network business operations at SK Telecom.
But the move should also provide Hollywood with another glimpse of the future when it comes to how studios will digitally distribute their films and TV shows.
As network speeds pick up around the world, mobile platforms will continue to grow into a major revenue stream for studios — especially as more consumers in foreign territories turn to their mobile devices rather than traditional homevideo platforms like DVD and Blu-ray discs to access entertainment. In some countries like South Korea and India, the sales of discs has long been surpassed by mobile-based VOD services.
But faster networks also create a problem: piracy. Studios have had a tough time building a considerable homevideo business in the country, due to rampant piracy issues over the years, forcing many of the majors to shutter their operations there. Piracy forced Universal and Paramount’s homevideo arms to abandon South Korea around 2006, when the country’s fast broadband speeds made it possible to download a film online in 30 minutes.
Studios aren’t fully abandoning the region, though, with Disney and Sony testing premium VOD releases in South Korea, with titles available online or on cable VOD three to five weeks after theatrical debut.
SK Telecom’s new service is only the beginning.
■ Samsung Electronics has tested an even faster 5G wireless technology that would enable users to download a full-length film in one second. That technology, which would deliver lightning quick speeds of 100 megabits per second, wouldn’t be available until 2020, the company said.
■ In the U.S., Google Fiber has been testing its ultra-high-speed internet service in Kansas, Missouri, since last year, and will soon introduce it to Austin, Texas, offering one gigabit per second speeds that make a movie available for download to a set-top box within 15 seconds.
■ Japan is rolling out the world’s fastest commercially provided home internet service, Nuro, from Sony-backed ISP So-net. The fiber optic connection pulls down data at two gigabits per second and sends data at one gigabits per second.
■ Last year, South Korean aimed to connect every home in the country to the Internet at similar speeds of one gigabit per second, with customers paying around $27 a month.
■ Average Internet connection speeds grew by 25% worldwide in the last three months of 2012, according to Akamai. South Korea had an average speed of 14 Mbps while Japan came in second with 10.8 Mbps. The U.S. came in the eighth spot with 7.4 Mbps. South Korea has 86% broadband penetration, while the U.S. stands at 64%.