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IoT service subscribers near 6 million in Korea

The number of South Koreans using Internet of Things services introduced by the country’s three mobile carriers is on the rise, providing a new breakthrough for the telecom companies’ stalled growth, according to government data and industry sources Wednesday.

Data from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning showed 5.95 million Koreans have subscribed to IoT services as of May, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the total number of subscribers of mobile network services, at 61.45 million.

The ministry’s data classifies IoT services into five categories: remote controlling, vehicle controlling, tablet PCs, wearable devices and mobile payment services.

Of the IoT service users, about 36 percent or 2.13 million people, were using remote controlling services, including home IoT services. Vehicle communications such as telematics services followed with 1.24 million subscribers.

By 2021, global spending on IoT-related hardware, software and services is estimated to reach $1.4 trillion, showed a recent survey by market researcher IDC.

This year alone, the spending is expected to surge 16.7 percent to around $800 billion worldwide compared to last year.

Korea’s IoT market is forecast to grow centering on the smart home, according to the industry. The country’s smart home market value reached 11.1 trillion won ($9.66 billion) last year and will rise to 13.2 trillion won this year, showed data from the Korea Association of Smart Home. 
Models show the Internet of Things device Smart Tracker by SK Telecom on Wednesday. (SK Telecom)
Models show the Internet of Things device Smart Tracker by SK Telecom on Wednesday. (SK Telecom)

The country’s three major telecom companies have been developing and commercializing both business-to-business and business-to-consumer IoT services in order to create new profits amid the stagnant growth of traditional mobile services.

The mobile carriers are increasingly teaming up with construction companies to set up home IoT platforms in new apartments. They are also rolling out smart home devices and services for individual consumers.

SK Telecom has launched around 70 smart home services that are connected to SKT’s voice assistant NUGU speaker in collaboration with about 60 other companies from different industries. SKT IoT services include the remote control of door-locks, gas valves and a wide range of home appliances.

Meanwhile, KT is beefing up cooperation with electronics manufacturers like Samsung and LG Electronics.

The company launched GiGA IoT Home Manager, a home IoT service that enables remote operations of up to six home appliances made by LG by connecting the products with KT’s voice-controlled speaker GiGA Genie.

Among the three mobile carriers, LG Uplus has the largest number of construction business-to-business partners as it aims to be a leader in the home IoT market. The company is partnering with more than 20 builders that work together on establishing IoT platforms in new apartments from the very beginning of construction processes.

“After KT and LG Uplus complete IoT-specialized networks known as NB-IoT, a low power wide range wireless network, IoT service subscribers are expected to show a steep rise,” said an industry source.

SKT’s IoT network called “LoRA” was completed nationwide last year, enabling the company to provide a broad range of IoT services.

SKT on Wednesday launched the IoT-based device Smart Tracker, which notifies users of the loss of personal items and is linked to the company’s smart home application.

By Song Su-hyun (
Korea Herald Youtube