South Korea - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts

Publication Overview

For those needing high level strategic analysis and objective analysis on Korea, this report is essential reading and gives further information on:


  • The New Songdo City Development planned to be a future Korean “Smart City”
  • The Government’s “Smart Work” initiative that aims to have 30% of public employees work from home or smart-work centres by 2015 with smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices;
  • the country’s goal to capture 10% of the global cloud services market by 2014 and to halve the cost of operating the public sector’s ICT infrastructure
  • the development of new technologies such as controlling a screen with one’s gaze
  • trials of 3D broadcasts in tandem with regular 2D broadcasts
  • direct deals by Samsung with companies including Skype and music streamer Spotify

Researcher:- Peter Evans
Current publication date:- February 2014 (20th Edition)

Executive Summary

LTE in South Korea touching 50% of mobile subscriber base as demand for data surges

South Korea has one of the world’s most active telecommunications and Information Technology markets backed by strong support from the government. Spending on ICT and high-technology equipment helped lead a transformation of the economy to one that is more progressively knowledge based. Having invested significantly in ‘basic’ telecommunications infrastructure over past decades, the country now has well developed submarine cable and satellite infrastructure as well as solid internet resources to support the growing demand for national and international communications. The government involvement continues with the aim of transforming the country into a knowledge-based information society in a ‘smart-age’.

The South Korean Government had a declared commitment to transition the country to digital terrestrial, digital cable and digital satellite TV broadcasting by 2012. The pressure created by convergence prompted South Korea to rewrite its regulatory arrangements for the broadcasting and communications sector. The operators continue to invest heavily in fibre based broadband deployments. As a result IPTV subscriptions have passed the 7 million mark as more content is available and the operators are able to compete more effectively with their own live broadcasts.

South Korea continues to be a booming mobile market as it innovatively explores the options for value-added services. The market passed the 110% penetration rate mark into 2013 with many individuals carrying at least one mobile phone. Having launched 3G networks in 2003, these had accounted for the majority of subscriptions. More recently, following the launch of 4G LTE services in 2011, this technology is quickly overwhelming the market and, coming into 2014, it had claimed 50% of the total mobile subscriber base. Not surprisingly, there has also been a rapid increase in smartphone adoption.

South Korea has the world’s highest number of broadband services per capita. Into 2014 over 38% of the population and around 95% of households were broadband subscribers. FttX accounted for over 60% of total subscriptions. Since 2006, Korea’s policy emphasis has been on completing a Broadband convergence Network (BcN) with wireline speeds of 50-100Mb/s per household and 1-2Mb/s on wireless connections. The plan moving forward has been for a UBcN (Ultra Broadband convergence Network) with 1Gb/s speeds on fixed lines and 10Mb/s on wireless by 2013.

The drive towards a ‘new economy’ has seen significant investments in Smart Infrastructure including Cloud Computing, Smart Grids and Smart Cities. The emergence of a National Strategy for Green IT has seen government promotion of new industry creation into 2018 such as 4G broadcasts and 3D and Smart television.

Market highlights:

  • Into 2014, fibre technology accounted for over 60% of all broadband subscribers in South Korea while ADSL subscriptions had declined to close to 10%, the balance being accounted for by cable modem subscribers;
  • Mobile penetration increased to 110%; Strong LTE demand was supported by the introduction of more smartphones into the market and has seen ARPU trend upwards;
  • LTE data usage is reported at least 50% higher compared with 3G at 1.6GB and 1.2GB respectively as reported by SK Telecom end June 2012. Samsung reports figures as high as 2.9GB of data on average a month compared with 1.2GB for 3G users;
  • LTE-Advanced testing continuing, with KT taking a lead role;
  • HD voice over LTE (VoLTE) was launched by SK Telecom;
  • Multi-carrier technology on 800MHz and 1.8GHz bands was launched in a world first
  • The introduction of MVNO services was starting to impact on the mobile market in 2013;
  • Spectrum auctions were held raising over US$1.5 billion for 10 year licence allocations;
  • WiFi and femtocell investments increased to reduce pressure on the core mobile networks;
  • A Smart Grid pilot is underway on Jeju Island with plans for a nationwide grid by 2030;
  • Green Economy initiatives are driving investments in Smart Cities.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Key Statistics
    • 1.1 Country Overview
      • 1.1.1 South Korea’s economy
  • 2. Telecommunications Market
    • 2.1 Government support
    • 2.2 ICT industry as an engine of economic growth
    • 2.3 Communication industry revenue by type
    • 2.4 Global rankings and South Korea
      • 2.4.1 Government Broadband Index - EIU
      • 2.4.2 Global Innovation Index – INSEAD
    • 2.5 Telecommunications market sectors
      • 2.5.1 Fixed-line and mobile services
      • 2.5.2 Broadband in South Korea
  • 3. Regulatory Environment
    • 3.1 KCC – Overview and responsibilities
    • 3.2 KCC – related laws
    • 3.3 National Internet Development Agency of Korea (NIDA)
    • 3.4 Policy overview
  • 4. Major Operators
    • 4.1 Overview of Major Telecom Operators
    • 4.2 KT Corp
      • 4.2.1 Company overview
      • 4.2.2 Company background
      • 4.2.3 KT Corp: Financial statistics
      • 4.2.4 KT Corp: Operations statistics
    • 4.3 SK Broadband
      • 4.3.1 Company overview
      • 4.3.2 Company developments
      • 4.3.3 Company background
      • 4.3.4 SK Broadband: Financial statistics
      • 4.3.5 SK Broadband: Operations statistics
    • 4.4 SK Telecom
      • 4.4.1 Company overview
      • 4.4.2 Company background
      • 4.4.3 SK Telecom: Financial statistics
      • 4.4.4 SK Telecom: Operations statistics
      • 4.4.5 SK Telecom: LTE 2.0 plans
      • 4.4.6 SK Planet
    • 4.5 LG U+
      • 4.5.1 Company overview
      • 4.5.2 LG U+: Financial statistics
      • 4.5.3 LG U+: Operations statistics
      • 4.5.4 LG U+: “Beyond Telecom” initiatives
  • 5. Telecommunications Infrastructure
    • 5.1 National submarine cable infrastructure
    • 5.2 International submarine cable infrastructure
    • 5.3 Satellite infrastructure
    • 5.4 Internet infrastructure
      • 5.4.1 Internet eXchange (IX)
      • 5.4.2 South Korea registered domains
      • 5.4.3 IPv6
      • 5.4.4 South Korea international internet bandwidth
    • 5.5 Smart grids
      • 5.5.1 Smart grid: new laws
      • 5.5.2 Smart grid stages: 2010 - 2030
      • 5.5.3 Five smart grid implementation areas
      • 5.5.4 Jeju Island
    • 5.6 Smart cities
      • 5.6.1 New Songdo City
      • 5.6.2 Busan
    • 5.7 Infrastructure investment strategies
      • 5.7.1 Infrastructure investment overview
      • 5.7.2 Infrastructure investment stages of growth
      • 5.7.3 Green IT in South Korea
      • 5.7.4 Top 10 ICT focus areas: 2010 - 2018
      • 5.7.5 New Technology Development
  • 6. Internet Market
    • 6.1 South Korea internet users
    • 6.2 South Korea internet subscribers
    • 6.3 South Korea ICT usage by household
    • 6.4 Changes in the average internet user by activity– 2000 vs 2010, 2011
    • 6.5 Distribution of internet users by region - 2010
    • 6.6 Internet usage patterns
    • 6.7 Internet usage by the socially disadvantaged
    • 6.8 Internet media consumption
  • 7. Broadband Market
    • 7.1 Background
      • 7.1.1 Broadband success criteria
    • 7.2 Overview
    • 7.3 Broadband statistics
    • 7.4 Operator broadband subscribers
    • 7.5 Broadband subscribers by access type
    • 7.6 Bundled services usage rate by type
    • 7.7 Broadband government targets
      • 7.7.1 Broadband convergence Network
      • 7.7.2 Ultra Broadband convergence Network
      • 7.7.3 Broadband speed results
    • 7.8 Broadband technologies
      • 7.8.1 Overview
      • 7.8.2 Cable modem
      • 7.8.3 Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
      • 7.8.4 Apartment LAN
      • 7.8.5 Fibre-to-the-Home
    • 7.9 Wireless broadband
      • 7.9.1 Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)/Wireless Fidelity (WiFi)
      • 7.9.2 WiBro
    • 7.10 Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
    • 7.11 Broadband TV
      • 7.11.1 Triple play background
      • 7.11.2 Internet protocol TV (IPTV)
  • 8. Digital Media / Digital Economy
    • 8.1 Digital Economy
      • 8.1.1 E-commerce
      • 8.1.2 E-government
      • 8.1.3 E-entertainment
      • 8.1.4 E-Learning
      • 8.1.5 E-services
    • 8.2 Broadcasting
      • 8.2.1 National television networks
      • 8.2.2 Digital TV
      • 8.2.3 Satellite TV
      • 8.2.4 Cable TV (CATV)
      • 8.2.5 Broadcasting deregulation
      • 8.2.6 Nationwide Terrestrial 3D Broadcast
      • 8.2.7 TV Music Streaming
  • 9. Mobile Communications
    • 9.1 Overview of South Korea’s mobile market
    • 9.2 Background of South Korea’s mobile market
    • 9.3 Mobile statistics
      • 9.3.1 Mobile subscribers 1985 - 2013
      • 9.3.2 Mobile subscribers by operator
      • 9.3.3 Mobile ARPU by operator
    • 9.4 Fourth mobile operator to enter market?
      • 9.4.1 KMI
      • 9.4.2 Kbiz
    • 9.5 MVNOs
    • 9.6 Spectrum auctions: 1.2GHz, 1.8GHz and 800MHz
    • 9.7 Additional spectrum allocation
    • 9.8 Mobile technologies
      • 9.8.1 Analogue (AMPS)
      • 9.8.2 Personal Communication Service (PCS)
      • 9.8.3 Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)
      • 9.8.4 Wideband CDMA (WCDMA)
      • 9.8.5 LTE
      • 9.8.6 Voice over LTE (VoLTE)
      • 9.8.7 LTE-Advanced (LTE-A)
      • 9.8.8 Smartphones
    • 9.9 Mobile data services
      • 9.9.1 Market overview
      • 9.9.2 Wireless Internet NIDA survey 2010
    • 9.10 Mobile content and applications
      • 9.10.1 Overview
      • 9.10.2 M-commerce/m-payment
      • 9.10.3 Mobile banking (m-banking)
      • 9.10.4 Mobile government (m-government)
      • 9.10.5 Apps Stores
      • 9.10.6 Mobile advertising
      • 9.10.7 NFC chips in smartphones
      • 9.10.8 Mobile TV
      • 9.10.9 Mobile learning
      • 9.10.10 OTT Voice
  • 10. Forecasts
    • 10.1 Forecast Fixed-line subscribers – 2012 - 2013; 2017
    • 10.2 Forecast Broadband subscribers – 2011 - 2012; 2017
    • 10.3 Forecast Internet users – 2011 - 2012; 2016
    • 10.4 Forecast: Mobile subscribers 2012- 2013; 2017
    • Table 1 – Country statistics South Korea – 2013
    • Table 2 – Telecom revenue and investment statistics – 2011
    • Table 3 – Telephone network statistics – March 2013
    • Table 4 – Internet user statistics – 2012
    • Table 5 – Broadband statistics – July 2013
    • Table 6 – Mobile statistics – September 2013
    • Table 7 – National telecommunications authorities
    • Table 8 – South Korea GDP real growth rate – 2008 - 2014
    • Table 9 – South Korea GDP and GDP per capita – 2000 - 2017
    • Table 10 – Growth of ICT industry – 2003 - 2010
    • Table 11 – Average growth rate per GDP and medium over 10 years from 2001 to 2010
    • Table 12 – Telecommunications fixed-line, mobile, total revenue and investment – 2000 - 2012
    • Table 13 – Wireline communication service revenue by sector – 2008 - 2013
    • Table 14 – Wireless communication service revenue by sector – 2008 - 2012
    • Table 15 – Fixed and mobile lines in service and teledensity – 1991 – 2013
    • Table 16 – KT Corp’s fixed-line subscribers and market share – 2004 - 2013
    • Table 17 – Telephony (PSTN + VoIP) subscribers, market share by operator – August 2013
    • Table 18 –Telephone lines by operator (PSTN) – 2005 - 2013
    • Table 19 –Telephone lines by operator (VoIP) – 2006 - 2013
    • Table 20 – Broadband internet subscribers by operator – 2005 - 2013
    • Table 21 – Broadband internet market share by operator – 2005 – 2013
    • Table 22 – Mobile operator market share – 2002 - 2013
    • Table 23 – KT Corp revenue, net profit, capex – 2008 – 2013
    • Table 24 – KT Corp capex – 2010
    • Table 25 – KT Corp’s fixed-line (PSTN) subscribers and market share – 2003 - 2013
    • Table 26 – KT Corp’s VoIP and total subscribers – 2008 - 2013
    • Table 27 – KT Corp’s broadband internet subscribers and market share – 2003 - 2013
    • Table 28 – KT Corp’s IPTV subscribers, ARPU and market share – 2006 - 2013
    • Table 29 – KT Corp’s WiBro subscribers – 2007 - 2013
    • Table 30 – KT Corp’s mobile and 3G subscribers and total market share – 2004 – 2013
    • Table 31 – KT’s Voice and data ARPU – 2004 – 2011
    • Table 32 – KT’s smartphone subscribers and penetration – 2009 – 2013
    • Table 33 – SK Broadband revenue, net income, capex, EBITDA – 2003 - 2013
    • Table 34 – SK Broadband operating revenue split – 2008 - 2011
    • Table 35 – SK Broadband capex – 2006 - 2011
    • Table 36 – SK Broadband - broadband internet subscribers – 2005 - 2012
    • Table 37 – SK Broadband - broadband internet subscribers – 2012 - 2013
    • Table 38 – SK Broadband ‘B tv’ TV subscribers – 2006-2013
    • Table 39 – SK Telecom revenue, net profit, capex, EBITDA margin – 2005 - 2013
    • Table 40 – SK Telecom mobile and 3G subscribers, ARPU – 2002 - 2013
    • Table 41 – SK Telecom smartphone subscribers and penetration – 2009 - 2013
    • Table 42 –LG U+ revenue, net income, EBITDA – 2009 – 2012
    • Table 43 –LG U+ revenue breakdown by service – 2009 – 2012
    • Table 44 – LG U+ capex – 2009 – 2013
    • Table 45 – LG U+ - total mobile ARPU – 2009 - 2013
    • Table 46 – LG Telecom mobile subscribers, ARPU – 2003 - 2013
    • Table 47 – LG Telecom fixed-line (PSTN and VoIP) subscribers – 2005 - 2013
    • Table 48 – LG U+ broadband subscribers – 2004 – 2013
    • Table 49 – LG U+ IPTV subscribers – 2007 – 2013
    • Table 50 – Registered .kr domains – 1993 - 2013
    • Table 51 – Number of IPv4 and IPv6 addresses – 1997 - 2013
    • Table 52 – International bandwidth – 1997 - 2013
    • Table 53 – Smart grid investment to 2015
    • Table 54 – Internet users and population penetration rates – 1994 - 2014
    • Table 55 – Internet users and population penetration rates – 2003 - 2012
    • Table 56 – Internet subscribers – 1996 - 2014
    • Table 57 – Personal computers and penetration by population and household – 2000 - 2013
    • Table 58 – Households with ICT service access by type: – 2011 - 2012
    • Table 59 – Changes in the average internet user by activity– 2000 versus 2010, 2011
    • Table 60 – Population and internet users by region - 2010
    • Table 61 – Internet usage rates by service– 2009 - 2012
    • Table 62 – Main purpose of using the internet – 2010 - 2012
    • Table 63 – Households with ICT devices – 2012
    • Table 64 – Internet usage rate of the socially disadvantaged – 2003 - 2009
    • Table 65 – Computer penetration rate in the socially disadvantaged households – 2003 - 2009
    • Table 66 – Online versus offline media consumption – 2012
    • Table 67 – Fixed broadband internet subscriber growth and penetration rate – 1998 - 2014
    • Table 68 – Broadband subscribers and households – July 2013
    • Table 69 – Broadband market share by operator – July 2013
    • Table 70 – Broadband internet subscriber numbers by system – 1998 - 2013
    • Table 71 – Bundled service usage pattern: households using bundled services– 2011
    • Table 72 – BcN implementation in households/subscribers – 2005; 2006 - 2011
    • Table 73 – UBcN implementation goals in households/subscribers – 2009 - 2013
    • Table 74 – Broadband subscribers by access type – July 2013
    • Table 75 – Cable modem subscribers – 1999 – 2013
    • Table 76 – Broadband cable modem (HFC) subscribers by service provider – July 2013
    • Table 77 – DSL subscribers – 1999 – 2013
    • Table 78 – DSL subscribers by service provider – July 2013
    • Table 79 – A-LAN subscribers – 2002 - 2013
    • Table 80 – A-LAN subscribers by service provider – July 2013
    • Table 81 – FttH subscribers – 2006 - 2013
    • Table 82 – FttH subscribers by service provider – July 2013
    • Table 83 – KT and SK Telecom WiBro subscribers – 2006 - 2013
    • Table 84 – KT and SK Telecom WiBro domestic investment plans – 2006 - 2011
    • Table 85 – South Korea VoIP subscribers by major operator and market share – August 2013
    • Table 86 – South Korea VoIP subscribers – 2006 - 2011
    • Table 87 – IPTV subscribers by operator – 2006 - 2013
    • Table 88 – IPTV growth by channels, content providers, after-school classrooms – 2008 - 2010
    • Table 89 – IPTV real-time and pre-IPTV subscribers – 2008 - 2012
    • Table 90 – E-commerce volume – 2001 - 2011
    • Table 91 – E-commerce volume by transaction type – 2001 - 2011
    • Table 92 – Internet banking service subscribers – 2001 - 2013
    • Table 93 – Financial service by delivery channel – 2005 – 2013
    • Table 94 – E-tax usage rates – 2002 - 2007
    • Table 95 – Online game market volume – 2002 - 2009
    • Table 96 – Digital music market volume – 2003 - 2009
    • Table 97 – Usage rates by types of social networking service – 2012
    • Table 98 – Online stock trading customers – 2004 - 2007
    • Table 99 – Purchase items by internet shopping – 2012
    • Table 100 – E-learning user market volume – 2004 - 2008
    • Table 101 – Internet search engine market share – May 2011
    • Table 102 – DTH subscribers – 2002 – 2013
    • Table 103 –Cable TV operators and subscribers – Q2 2010
    • Table 104 – Analogue and digital cable TV subscribers – 2002 – 2010, 2012
    • Table 105 – Comparison of cost per cable TV subscriber – 2009
    • Table 106 – Mobile subscribers – 1985 - 2013
    • Table 107 – Mobile subscribers and annual change by operator and technology – June 2013
    • Table 108 – Mobile operator market share – 2002 - 2013
    • Table 109 – Mobile subscribers by operator – 2002 – 2013
    • Table 110 – Blended mobile ARPU by operator – 2Q 2013
    • Table 111 – Mobile Service ARPU per month by operator – 1Q 2011 – 2Q 2013
    • Table 112 – MVNO subscribers by operator – January 2012, September 2012
    • Table 113 – CDMA mobile subscribers by operator – 2002 - 2013
    • Table 114 – WCDMA subscribers by operator – June 2013
    • Table 115 – LTE mobile subscribers by operator – 2011 – 2013
    • Table 116 – Smart phone subscribers and market share – 2009 - 2012
    • Table 117 – Forecast smart phone and tablet PC subscribers and market share – 2010 – 2015
    • Table 118 – Purpose of using mobile phone wireless internet – 2009 - 2010
    • Table 119 – Wireless internet device usage - 2010
    • Table 120 – Mobile banking service subscribers – 2003 – 2010
    • Table 121 – Forecast fixed-line subscribers and penetration - higher band: 2012 - 2013; 2017
    • Table 122 – Forecast fixed-line subscribers and penetration - lower band: 2012 - 2013; 2017
    • Table 123 – Forecast broadband subscribers and penetration – higher band: 2012 - 2013; 2017
    • Table 124 – Forecast broadband subscribers and penetration – lower band: 2012 - 2013; 2017
    • Table 125 – Forecast internet users and penetration - higher band: 2012 - 2013; 2017
    • Table 126 – Forecast internet users and penetration - lower band: 2012 - 2013; 2017
    • Table 127 – Forecast mobile subscribers and penetration lower band forecast – 2011 - 2012; 2017
    • Table 128 – Forecast mobile subscribers and penetration higher band forecast – 2011 - 2012; 2017
    • Chart 1: Telecommunications revenue breakdown – 2000 versus 2009
    • Chart 2 – South Korea fixed-line and mobile subscribers – 2000 - 2013
    • Chart 3 – PSTN and VoIP subscribers by major operators – 2006 - 2012
    • Chart 4 – Broadband internet subscribers by operator – 2005 - 2012
    • Chart 5 – KT mobile subscribers by network, voice and data ARPU – 2004 – 2011
    • Chart 6 – SK Telecom revenue, capex, ARPU – 2005 - 2011
    • Chart 7 – LG U+ revenue, capex, ARPU – 2009 - 2011
    • Chart 8 – Number of internet users and growth rate in South Korea – 2000 - 2013
    • Chart 9: Households with ICT service access by type: 2009 - 2010
    • Chart 10: Rate of households with internet access – 2002 - 2011
    • Chart 11 – South Korea broadband subscribers and population penetration – 2000 - 2013
    • Chart 12 – South Korea share of broadband subscribers by technology – 2002 - 2013
    • Chart 13 – South Korea DSL and A-LAN subscribers – 2002 - 2013
    • Chart 14 - VoIP subscribers by major operator and market share - August 2013
    • Chart 15 – South Korea mobile subscriber growth, population penetration – 2000 - 2013
    • Chart 16 – Operator total market share – June 2013
    • Chart 17 – South Korea mobile subscribers by operator – 2002 - 2013
    • Chart 18: Trends in wireless internet usage rate – 2002 - 2010
    • Exhibit 1 – Map of South Korea
    • Exhibit 2 – Significant telecoms operators in South Korea
    • Exhibit 3 – KT at a glance – December 2011
    • Exhibit 4 – SK Broadband at a glance – December 2011
    • Exhibit 5 – SK Telecom at a glance – December 2011
    • Exhibit 6 – LG U+ at a glance – December 2011
    • Exhibit 7 – National submarine fibre optic cables overview in South Korea
    • Exhibit 8 – International submarine fibre optic cables overview in South Korea
    • Exhibit 9 – KOREASAT satellite status
    • Exhibit 10 – Interconnection status by IX - 2011
    • Exhibit 11 – Smart grid implementation areas
    • Exhibit 12 – Phased implementation plan of Jeju Smart Grid: 2010 - 2013
    • Exhibit 13 – Informatisation policies and paradigms – 1998 - 2012
    • Exhibit 14 – Informatisation Promotion: Execution body
    • Exhibit 15 – Green IT promotion strategies of domestic companies
    • Exhibit 16 – Comparison of WiBro and mobile technologies in South Korea
    • Exhibit 17 – E-government stages: 1980s - present
    • Exhibit 18 – South Korea rankings in UN global e-government survey: 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012
    • Exhibit 19 – Regional TV broadcasters in South Korea

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