2010 South Korea - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts

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Last updated: 11 Aug 2010 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 162

Analyst: Paul Budde

Publication Overview

South Korea is a country leading in technology use. The report covers trends and developments in telecommunications, mobile, Internet, broadband, digital TV and converging media including VoIP and IPTV developments. Subjects include:

  • Market and industry analyses, trends and developments;
  • Facts, figures and statistics;
  • Industry and regulatory issues;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Major players, revenues, subscribers, ARPU;
  • Internet, VoIP, IPTV;
  • Mobile voice and data markets;
  • Broadband (FttH, DSL, cable TV, WiBro);
  • Convergence and digital media;
  • Smart grids and smart cities;
  • Forecasts to 2015 in fixed-line, mobile, Internet and broadband subscribers.

Researcher:- Lisa Hulme-Jones
Current publication date:- July 2010 (16th Edition)
Next publication date:- July 2011

Executive Summary

Convergence in South Korea is poised to accelerate the ‘need for speed’ to 2015

South Korea is the fourth largest economy in Asia and has one of the most vibrant telecommunications markets in the world. The market is supported by a visionary government programme of stimulating development through liberalisation, deregulation and early privatisation of the incumbent, a creative and energetic private sector and a technology savvy population.

South Korea ranked first in the 2010 United Nations Global E-Government Survey. The achievement bears great significance as it is expected to serve as the starting point of globalising South Korea’s e-government expertise. The country’s advanced IT systems and the government’s strong commitment to the IT industry have converged to build the most efficient e-government system available.

Fixed-mobile convergence opportunities have accelerated. During 2009 and 2010 KT merged with KT Freetel; LG Telecom merged in the operations of LG Dacom and LG Powercom; and SK Telecom and SK Broadband exhibited strong ownership ties creating, in effect, a third full-services operator. These new market dynamics are coupled with plans by South Korea to inject up to KRW1.7 trillion (US$1.4 billion) in the next five years in a bid to become one of the top five leaders in the information technology convergence sector.

South Korea has the world’s highest number of broadband services per capita and focussed on its Next Generation Networks Broadband Convergence Network project between 2005 and 2010. Not content with meeting the Broadband Convergence Network goal, the government set a new target under the Ultra-Broadband Convergence Network plan set to run between 2009 and 2013. This included further increases in broadband subscribers having access speeds of over 1Gb/s. In addition to upgrades to the backbone network a plan was established to link the public sector to a sensor network by 2012.

Over 100% of South Koreans have at least one mobile phone. The three main mobile operators are SK Telecom, KT and LG UPlus. By mid-2010, SK Telecom held just over 50% of the mobile market, KTF about 30% and LG Telecom almost 20%, levels that had remained relatively unchanged over a five-year period. South Korea is considered a leader in 3G mobile technology and KT has taken the lead in having 85% of its subscriber base using WCDMA.

The country’s fixed-line telephone market continues to be dominated by the incumbent KT Corp although VoIP services have become popular. The South Korean Government is committed to transitioning the country to digital terrestrial, digital cable and digital satellite TV broadcasting by 2012. The pressure created by convergence had South Korea rewrite its regulatory arrangements for the broadcasting and communications sector.

By contrast, the development of the telecoms sector in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is seriously impeded. North Korea’s obsession with secrecy has made it extremely difficult to get a clear picture of the sector. Despite this, North Korea has proceeded with mobile communications through a single operator owned by Orascom Telecom Holding of Egypt and state-owned Korea Post and Telecoms Corporation. Subscriber levels remain extremely low.

Market highlights:

  • In early 2010 KT Freetel was merged into KT, making the company a full-services operator. The company launched its fixed-mobile convergence service called ‘alleh’, combining mobile and Internet phone functions on one handset.
  • SK Telecom aimed to become a ‘leading global ICT company’ through: embedding intelligence in software development and super-computing technologies; establishing seamless mutual connections by connecting mobile, fixed, local, and long distance networks; strengthening functions of facilities/equipment/products by using transistors, sensors and RFID tags.
  • LG Telecom officially changed its corporate identity to LG U+ in 2010 after merging its operations to become a full-services operator.
  • In early 2010, fibre technology accounted for 65% of all broadband subscribers in South Korea. The country had the seventh largest broadband subscriber base in the world and over 16 million broadband subscribers compared to Japan at 30 million and China at 105 million.
  • South Korea plans to build a ‘smart grid’ pilot complex by 2011 to enhance the country’s ability to use renewable energy. According to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, the KRW27.5 trillion (US$24 billion) nationwide smart grid will support nearly 30,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2030.
  • The government intends to spend KRW12 billion by 2011 on IPTV content development alone. KT planned to invest a further KRW350 billion in its IPTV network, while SK Broadband and LG Telecom planned for investments of KRW260 billion and KRW250 billion respectively.
  • Green measures planned include promoting teleconferencing, as well as using broadband technology and the Global Positioning System to reduce traffic congestion.

South Korea – key telecom parameters – 2004; 2009 - 2010




2010 (e)

Internet (million)

Internet users




Internet subscribers




Broadband subscribers (million)





Cable modem




Apartment LAN








Total (including satellite)




Broadband penetration




Subscribers to telecoms services (million)

Fixed-line telephones




Mobile phones




(Source: BuddeComm based on ITU, NIA and industry data)

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

  • The KCC recommendation that ISPs upgrade their backbone networks to support IPv6 by 2011.
  • The introduction of the iPhone and smartphone users topping one million in 2010.
  • The New Songdo City Development planned to be a future Korean ‘Smart City’, with a loan of US$35 billion from Korean banks and corporations and the backing of the state.
  • The Korean government’s ‘Smart Work’ initiative that aims to have 30% of public employees work from home or nearby smart-work centres by 2015 with smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices.
  • KT’s talks with Woori Bank to buy a stake in the unlisted BC Card as part of its efforts to offer a combination of banking and telecom products and services in South Korea.
  • A trial broadcasting service of 3D DMB scheduled for 2011 during the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Daegu.
  • SK Telecom’s first operator-based mobile apps store in late 2009, with plans to take it global by 2011.
  • KT’s increased investment budget for WiBro to KRW1.2 trillion by the end of 2011 with SKT to spend KRW300 billion.

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

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