2019 South Korea - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 21 Apr 2020 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 134

Analyst: Sebastien De Rosbo

Publication Overview

This report provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments in South Korea's telecommunications market. The report analyses the mobile, internet, broadband, and converging media sectors. Subjects include: 

  • Market and industry analyses, trends and developments;
  • Facts, figures and statistics;
  • Industry and regulatory issues;
  • Major Players, Revenues, Subscribers, ARPU
  • Mobile Voice and Data Markets;
  • Broadband (FttH, DSL, cable TV, wireless);
  • Convergence and Digital Media;
  • Mobile subscriber forecasts to 2023
  • Broadband and mobile broadband forecasts to 2023

Executive Summary

South Korea leads the Asian region with the first launch of 5G services

South Korea has transformed its economy to one that is more progressively knowledge based. It has invested significantly in telecommunications infrastructure over past decades.

South Korea is ranked 2nd out of 34 with an Asian Telecoms Maturity Index score of 93. (BuddeComm’s “Asian Telecoms Maturity Index”, is an index (on a scale between 0 and 100) that measures and ranks the relative maturity of the telecoms industry in all of the 34 countries in Asia.) Compared to other Asian nations, South Korea has very high mobile and mobile broadband penetration and very high fixed broadband penetration.

Fixed lines in South Korea have been gradually declining over the past five years. This trend is predicted to continue over the next five years to 2023.

South Korea has one of the world’s most active telecommunications and Information Technology (IT) markets backed by strong support from the government. As well as the commitment of the government, the sector is boosted by an innovative private sector and a technologically savvy population. Spending on ICT and high-technology equipment helped lead a transformation of the economy. The government aims to transform the country into a knowledge-based information society in a ‘smart-age’.

Huawei has partnered with LG U+. for the launch of Seoul TechCity as part of its commitment to drive smart city efforts. The Seoul TechCity collaborative project aims to deliver smart city capabilities for the Korean capital.

South Korea has the world’s highest number of broadband services per capita. Korea’s policy emphasis has been to establish an Ultra Broadband convergence Network (UBcN) with 1Gb/s speeds on fixed lines and 10Mb/s on wireless.

Fixed-line broadband market penetration has grown slowly over the past five years in a highly mature market. Over the next five years to 2023 growth is expected to continue to increase slowly.

The South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) announced the establishment of a new fund specifically targeting technologies and projects that can provide data rates of 10Gbps, with plans to reach 50% adoption rate of the super-fast speeds by 2022.

Mobile subscriber growth has been moderate in mobile market over the past five years. The market has been driven by organic growth from the three main mobile operators, together with the multitude of niche MVNOs. Mobile subscriber growth is expected to be relatively low over the next five years to 2023. Growth rates will taper off further over the next few years as the market further matures in a highly competitive market. The market will be driven by the uptake of both 4G and 5G services.

South Korea’s three mobile operators, SK Telecom, LG Uplus and KT Corp have switched on their respective 5G networks for enterprise customers.

KT Corp and LG Uplus launched commercial services to consumers. Initial coverage is reported to be heavily focused on Seoul and its surroundings.

KT’s industrial 5G development plans focus on five main areas in collaboration with private sector companies and the government to develop 5G services for both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) sectors.

The mobile broadband subscriber base in South Korea has grown moderately over the past five years in a relatively mature market supported by widespread rollouts of 4G infrastructure. Slower growth is predicted over the next five years to 2023.

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.

The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.

Key Developments

  • SK Telecom became the first South Korean mobile operator to test autonomous cars on public roads.
  • Huawei has partnered with LG U+. for the launch of Seoul TechCity.
  • Over the next five years to 2023 fixed broadband growth is expected to continue to increase slowly.
  • South Korea's three mobile operators have launched 5G services.
  • Mobile subscriber growth is expected to be relatively low over the next five years to 2023.
  • KT's industrial 5G development plans focus on five main areas in collaboration with private sector companies and the government.
  • Assessment of the global impact of COVID-19 on the telecoms sector.

Key companies mentioned in this report:

KT; LG U+; SK Broadband; SK Telecom, Hanaro Telecom

Phil Harpur
May 2019

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