Nº 4 2015 > A Focus on KT Corp. — Republic of Korea

Leader Interview with Chang-Gyu Hwang

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), KT Corp.

Chang-Gyu Hwang, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), KT Corp.
Chang-Gyu Hwang, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), KT Corp.

What are your personal values for leading KT forward?

Chang-Gyu Hwang: Since its foundation in 1981, KT has been leading the Republic of Korea in the development of the information and communication technologies (ICT) industry. It is well known as one of the most advanced telecommunications and ICT convergence service providers in the world with seamless coverage of the fixed and mobile network, including land, sea and air coverage. Providing customer-centric and differentiated services based on cutting-edge technologies is at the core of my management philosophy.

Keeping ahead with top-notch technology is an important starting point, but in addition, I believe our company cannot lead the market without providing customer-oriented value. A company must discover and address the hidden needs of customers when developing and delivering products and services. B2C takes up a large part of KT Group’s business, and we focus our resources on improving our products and services tailored to customers’ needs. For example, we have developed a solution using Big Data analytics to map network quality, which accelerates troubleshooting and means we can respond faster, thus enhancing customers’ experience. KT was the first to launch an automatic response service using web and text messages as well as a free caller-ID application which issues alerts about smishing (phishing via SMS) and spam beforehand. These features allow us to provide more convenient customer care and preventative measures for possible fraud and inconveniences.

It is my strong belief that commanding market leadership can only be realized by empowering employees with authority and responsibility. This is a core value that must be deeply rooted within an organizational culture. Under this philosophy, KT has empowered its field managers with a certain budget and resources to be utilized at their own discretion in effectively meeting customer requirements without having to go through an approval process.

Another important philosophy is fostering open collaboration across the company. One of the best practices we have in place is “No. 1 Workshop”, which provides a venue for finding optimal solutions requiring inter-department collaboration. In doing so, we can achieve more active communications within the company, as well as significant reductions in trials and errors.

Through this practice, we have launched the GiGAWire and GiGA UHD TV products with great success. GiGAWire is an innovative technology that triples network speed using existing copper cables, which allows KT to instantly upgrade high speed broadband services to its customers. GiGA UHD TV is a world-first UHD IPTV service with 4 times higher display resolution at 10 times faster download speed, and it has been very well-received in the market, gathering 300 000 subscribers by April 2015.

Finally, I am a strong believer of open and interactive communications. Since I took the office as CEO of KT, I have personally met with more than 1000 employees, sent out periodic communications via e-mails, and internal broadcasts to share strategic directions, enhance company performance, and address important issues. These frequent interactions allow me to listen to our employees, as well as convey our management philosophy.

Please can you describe some of KT's exciting projects in the Republic of Korea and elsewhere?

Chang-Gyu Hwang: KT aims to create shared value with the larger community through ’broadband empowerment’. Under this goal, we recently launched the ’GiGA Island’ project (see the following article). It is a Community Development Project providing extended ICT benefits to residents located in remote islands, based on GiGA-speed infrastructure integrated with ICT solutions. The project offers ICT and converged services in education, culture, economy, and health care for residents who previously had limited access to high-speed Internet, due to geographic barriers.

I also introduced this GiGA Island project in my speech as a newly appointed Commissioner to the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development in Paris in February of this year. The project was very well-received by Commissioners for its close alignment with the UN’s Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) through Digital Inclusion. In essence, we are empowering residents of remote and isolated regions with new opportunities and better lifestyles through GiGA-speed infrastrucure and converged ICT services.

One of the most renowned business professors, Dr Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, has expressed deep interest in our project as one of the best cases for an innovative corporate strategy in Creating Shared Value (CSV). I believe the ’GiGA Island’ project can be used as a corporate-government collaboration model. This model will both facilitate digital inclusion, enhance living conditions and create new business opportunities.

Another project I would like to highlight is the ’Gyeonggi-Creative Economy & Innovation Center (G-CEIC)’. KT opened G-CEIC in conjunction with the Gyeonggi provincial government in March 2015. The center aims to foster venture companies and start-ups, as well as Small- and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs), to develop their ideas into viable commercial business models and enter the global market, especially in the area of FinTech and the Internet of Things (IoT). It is our ambition to bring out the hidden Champion in all venture companies — the “K-Champs.”

Last but not least, I would like to explain the Mobile Direct case in Rwanda. Starting in 2014, KT has built and launched a 4G LTE Mobile Broadband network in Rwanda to help improve poor fixed broadband coverage. We named it “Mobile Direct”, because it went directly to mobile, bypassing the fixed network, and from 2G to 4G. With this approach, KT has pioneered ways to expedite efforts to bring broadband Internet coverage to developing countries. The Olleh Rwanda Network, a joint venture company between KT and the Government of Rwanda, launched the 4G LTE commercial service in November 2014. Taking a similar approach, KT is currently planning to launch a TD-LTE based premium mobile broadband service in Uzbekistan in mid-2015.

What do you see as the up-and-coming trends to watch in the industry?

Chang-Gyu Hwang: I think that you cannot address today’s ICT trends without mentioning convergence.

Recently, convergence is taking many different forms, blurring boundaries between hardware and software, bringing people and things closer together, and across industries.

With the growth of 4G LTE and smart and connected devices, convergence across various industries is expanding and accelerating. In an effort to stand at the forefront of the convergence era, we set out our plan to drive further growth through convergence businesses in five areas: Smart Energy, Next Generation Media, Life Enhancing Care, Networked Transportation, and Integrated Safety. By 2017, we expect revenues from the convergence businesses to grow to KRW 119 trillion (USD 108 billion) from KRW 300 billion (USD 275 million) today.

In this era of convergence, another key trend is IoT, where everything will be connected. The IoT presents tremendous opportunities for operators in connectivity, as well as creating new business models utilizing Big Data technology. With Big Data analysis, we can provide enhanced customer value beyond connectivity.

However, we are also observing fragmentation in IoT technologies and it is very important for the industries and stakeholders to work together to develop global standards for IoT in a timely manner. Based on a joint proposal by KT and Telefonica, the GSMA launched an IoT Big Data Ecosystem project earlier this year to identify and define key elements for standardization, as well as to promote the exchange of IoT Big Data to develop new business opportunities.

What is KT’s strategy to lead 5th Generation Mobile world among other players?

Chang-Gyu Hwang: 5G will be a key driver for future innovations. In my Keynote Address at Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona, I presented how 5G will bring changes to future lifestyles. I introduced KT’s vision of 5G and our efforts in the development of 5G technology, and I also presented some of the services envisaged for 5G, such as holographic contents, simultaneous interpretation service, and driverless cars.

With our leadership in providing top-notch 4G LTE services, KT has already made extensive efforts in developing various advanced technologies in partnership with vendors, such as 4X4 (4 transmit and 4 receive) massive antenna with Samsung Electronics, the world’s first HetNet (heterogeneous network) CA (carrier aggregation) system with Ericsson, Device–to-Device technology with Samsung and Qualcomm, and the world’s first LTE-M technology with Nokia. Last April, we successfully developed Massive MIMO (Multiple Input and Multiple Output), a core technique contributing to 5G, which we demonstrated in Shanghai as a part of collaboration for 5G with Huawei.

In preparing for the 5G era, cooperation among global stakeholders is very important and we are aligning our efforts to contribute to global leadership. As a Sector Member of ITU, KT is fully committed to the global standardization led by the ITU–R on IMT-2020 (5G) and is one of the leading companies to establish the ITU–T Focus Group on IMT-2020. Furthermore, during the MWC2015, I met with Nokia, Ericsson, Telefonica, NTT DoCoMo, and China Mobile, among others, to discuss industry collaboration in efforts toward the expedited development of 5G standards, technologies and spectrum. In March at MWC 2015, the three leading Asian operators, KT, NTT DoCoMo and China Mobile announced a ’Joint Statement on 5G Technological Cooperation for ICT Cooperation’. The CTOs of the three companies met again in Seoul in April and discussed follow-up actions to work on the standardization of 5G.

At the PyeonChang 2018 Winter Olympics, it is KT’s goal to unveil the world’s first 5G services at a pre-commercial level. We are planning to showcase a variety of services with enhanced speed, latency, and connectivity. For instance, we are preparing various services such as broadcasting from the viewpoint of players, a 360-degree panoramic view, and multi-dimensional service (broadcasting from multiple viewpoints). As an official telecommunications services partner of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, KT will give its utmost efforts to realize the vision of 5G and make the Olympics a truly memorable set of Games for all time.

The following article describes KT Corp's GiGAtopia Strategy and GiGA Island Project.

Editor’s Note: ITU activities relating to mobile and wireless broadband are carried out within the framework of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT). In early 2012, the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R) Working Party 5D embarked on a programme to develop ’IMT for 2020 and beyond’, setting the stage for ’5G’ research activities emerging around the world to establish technical specifications and key elements for ’IMT for 2020’, based on ITU–R’s partnership with the mobile broadband industry and wide range of stakeholders in the ’5G’ community.


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