The Korea Herald


Number of 5G subscribers in S. Korea surpasses 2 million

With SK Telecom in lead, KT and LG Uplus compete for second place

By Yeo Jun-suk

Published : Aug. 8, 2019 - 15:35

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 Four months after South Korea commercially launched the fifth-generation cellular network, the number of 5G subscribers here has surpassed 2 million as of this week, amid growing competition among major mobile carriers.

According to industry data, the country’s three major carriers -- SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus -- reached combined subscribers of 2.01 million Tuesday, about two months after they topped the 1 million threshold in June.

Growth is expected to further accelerate when Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 hits the market later this month. Only a 5G-powered model of the smartphone will be rolled out here Aug. 23.

“Given there are many loyal customers of the Galaxy Note smartphone series, mobile carriers have reserved resources to engage in a massive marketing battle,” said an official from a Seoul-based telecom company. 

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Since the nationwide 5G commercial launch in April, Korean companies have engaged in aggressive marketing to increase the number of 5G subscribers. 

According to the Global System for Mobile Communication Association, Korea accounted for 77 percent of worldwide 5G subscribers in late June. This was about 16 times more than the number of subscribers in the US, which had battled with Korea for the title of “world’s first” 5G launch.

Buoyed by US sanctions on Chinese tech giant Huawei, Korean firms have expanded their presence in the 5G network equipment market. US research company Dell’Oro Group said in May that Samsung Electronics recorded a 37 percent share in the 5G Radio Assess Network market in the fourth quarter of last year.

Meanwhile, competition at home has intensified, as mobile carriers boost efforts to attract subscribers.

With the country’s biggest mobile carrier SK Telecom in the lead, KT and LG Uplus have been competing for the runner-up position since the country’s first 5G-powered smartphone, the Galaxy S10 5G, became available for commercial services in April.

According to industry data from mobile carriers, about 42 percent of 5G users subscribe to 5G network services provided by SKT. KT and LG Uplus reportedly account for about 31 and 27 percent, respectively.

“Depending on marketing campaigns, the three companies’ market shares have become flexible,” said another telco company official. “Now they have exhausted their marketing money for the Galaxy S10 5G, a new battle will begin with the Galaxy Note 5G.”