South Korea Telecoms Market Report

Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 9 Sep 2020 Update History

Report Pages: 147

Analyst: Sebastien De Rosbo

South Korea preps for 6G to gain international lead

South Korea has emerged as one of the leading countries in terms of telecom market maturity and the adoption of emerging technologies. The country is ranked 2nd of 34 Asian countries in BuddeComm’s Telecoms Maturity Index. This is largely due to very high mobile and mobile broadband penetration as well as high fixed broadband penetration. With excellent infrastructure in place, the country has also emerged as a leader in digital innovation and the use of ICT for e-services.

The government has strongly supported the ICT sector, while it has also coordinated policy and strategies in close cooperation with the main telcos. This has been shown most notably in the investment plans of telcos regarding the deployment of 5G infrastructure.

As well as the commitment of the government, the sector has been supported by an innovative private sector and a technologically savvy population. Spending on ICT and high-technology equipment has helped develop economic growth as well as spearhead the transformation of a knowledge-based information society.

With the world’s highest broadband penetration rate, South Korea’s policy emphasis has been to establish an Ultra Broadband convergence Network (UBcN) to provide a 1Gb/s data rate nationally. In addition, the Ministry of Science and ICT is funding projects targeting technologies which can provide data rates of 10Gb/s, with plans to reach 50% adoption rate of the super-fast speeds by 2022. This forward-looking momentum has encouraged the government to begin development of the technologies and potential standards of 6G.

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 trials autonomous cars on public roads;
  • MNOs collectively fined KRW51.2 billion for 5G handset subsidy breaches;
  • Huawei partners with LG U+ to launch Seoul TechCity;
  • 5G subscriber base approaches eight million;
  • KT's industrial 5G development plans focussing on five main areas in collaboration with private sector companies and the government;
  • Report update includes telcos’ operating and financial data to Q2 2020, regulator’s market data to July 2020, telecom maturity Index charts and analyses, assessment of the global impact of COVID-19 on the telecoms sector, recent market developments.

Key companies mentioned in this report:

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

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