The number of users of the long-term evolution network in South Korea is estimated to have surpassed 30 million this month, data showed Thursday, amid heightened battle among mobile carriers.
Earlier data from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning put the number of local LTE users at 29.4 million at end-January. The number has been rising by around 800,000 every month since 2013.
SK Telecom Co., the top industry player that takes up half of the local mobile market, had 13.9 million LTE users, trailed by KT Corp. with 8.2 million and LG Uplus Corp. with 7.2 million, the data also showed. South Korea first introduced the LTE network in July 2011.
The number of LTE users in the country surpassed the 10 million mark in August 2012 and topped 20 million in April last year, the data showed.
South Korea's LTE users account for 80 percent of the combined number of smartphone users in the country, which came to 37.88 million last month, a significant number in a country with a population of around 50 million.
Industry watchers said the sharp rise came as three local mobile carriers scrambled for a wider market share by providing updated LTE services with carrier aggregation technology, which bundles more than two frequency bands to increase bandwidth.
Local mobile carriers' market strategy of providing subsidy to new subscribers, however, is cited as a main contributor to the sharp growth in the number of local LTE users, industry watchers said.
Subsidies are the most commonly used tactic to entice subscribers into changing their mobile operator but are blamed for undermining fair competition and market transparency.
Since the introduction of LTE services in South Korea, the local telecom authority has taken five regulatory actions such as business suspension and fines against excessive subsidies.
The ICT ministry is also set to impose additional punishment on the mobile carriers that continued to provide subsidies despite warnings from the Korea Communications Commission. (Yonhap)