South Korea Telecoms Industry Report – 2023-2030


This report provides analyses of revenue and market forecasts as well as statistics of the Australian telecoms industry including market sizing, 5-year forecasts, market insights, key telecom trends, 5G, digital infrastructure and also features the following: Overall Telecommunications Market by Major Operators Telco Operators Profile, Revenue and EBITDA Mix Mobile Subscribers & Revenue Market Overview and Forecasts Spectrum Holdings IoT Market Overview Broadband Subscribers & Revenue Market Overview and Forecasts Digital Infrastructure (Fibre, Telecom Towers, Data Centres, Submarine Cables) National Broadband Network Detailed Market Overview and Forecasts Telecom Tower Market Analysis and Forecast Thematics / Opportunities relating to 5G, M&A…



  • Benefit from the latest market opportunities
  • Understand the threats to your operations and investments and protect your company against future risks
  • Gain insights on emerging trends supporting, enhancing or disrupting your activities in the market
  • Get a full view of the competitive landscape to assess your market position.
  • Forecasts as a key input for successful budgeting and strategic business planning in the telecoms market
  • Target business opportunities and risks in the telecoms sector through our reviews of latest industry trends, regulatory changes and major deals, projects and investments
  • Assess the activities, strategy and market position of your competitors, partners and clients via our Operators Profiles

The South Korea Telecommunications Industry Report, 2023-2030 includes a comprehensive review of the South Korean market dynamics, market sizing, market forecasts, analysis, insights and key trends.


South Korea Telecoms Industry Report at a Glance

Globally, the telecommunications sector is proving to be a core and essential infrastructure service to national economies, with data infrastructure becoming critical in a connected world and will likely increasingly attract a new class of investors such as large infrastructure funds. Idem Est Research anticipates the telecommunications industry in South Korea to maintain stability owing to its resilient characteristics, even amidst political turmoil and economic unpredictability spurred by inflationary pressure.

The South Korean telecommunications market is the third-largest market in the world by revenue with three large fixed and mobile network operators that invested heavily in towers and fibre infrastructure over the past two decades despite an overall market underpinned by low economic and population growth.

To support the government’s Korean New Deal (K-New Deal) objectives, the three operators agreed to invest a combined US$2.1 billion in the period to 2022, initially rolling out 5G in the capital, Seoul, and six other metropolitan areas, before moving on to extending coverage nationwide.

Growing mobile phone penetration and high fixed broadband take-up among households will fuel future growth over the next seven years.

Following the market expansion over the last 5 years, Idem Est Research forecasts sustained revenue growth growing to 2030, with the inflationary pressure, the diminishing impact of declining legacy voice and SMS revenue and population decline since 2022.

The market landscape from 2016-2022 witnessed a revenue share shift towards LG Uplus at SK Telecom’s expense, while KT maintained stability. Predictions indicate market growth resurgence in 2022, tapering off as the forecast period concludes, with anticipated population decline in South Korea impacting forecasts.

The strategic and economic competition between South Korea and China is at the centre of advanced technology competition and the future of global data and communications. For most developed countries in the region, gaining strategic and economic power depends heavily on having technological ascendancy, especially in data and communications.

Capex Investments

The Capex from South Korean operators is cyclical with mobile rollout leading to investments in line with the operators’ top-line growth. Capex investments peaked between 2012 and 2014 while all three operators built their respective 4G mobile network. Capex investments increased again in 2019 and will continue through to 2030, as mobile operators invest in 5G. South Korea sees 5G as the backbone of a wide range of technological advances including autonomous vehicles, smart cities and Internet of Things. All three mobile operators launched 5G services in 2019 and as of June 2023, over 40% of mobile users are already using 5G. The Capex to GDP ratio spiked in 20219 and started to slide downwards and growing from 2023 onwards with heavy investments in AI by three operators.

Operator Profiles

The South Korean three-player mobile market is a remarkably stable market, however with mobile revenue pressure, all operators are broadening their range of services from e-commerce (SK Telecom), smart home (LG Uplus) to real estate (KT) and digital payments.

Between 2016 and 2022, both SK Telecom lost revenue and EBITDA share to LG Uplus over the last six years, KT held its revenue share steady but lost some share from the telecom market EBITDA pool.

Mobile Subscribers and Revenue

Average annual mobile revenue growth was lower (-0.2%) than mobile service subscriptions growth (3.7%) during the period 2016-2022, highlighting the structural challenges faced by mobile operators. Initial 5G ARPU uplift is now tapering off and heavy completion from MVNOs is putting pressure on ARPU, compounded by bundling discounts to stem churn.

IoT connections is a major growth driver for mobile operators, a slowdown in mobile subscriptions growth will put long term pressure, dialling up competition for the three mobile operators fighting for fewer new customers.

According to our benchmark study of mobile data pricing, South Korea had among the biggest cost reduction per GB over the last 3 years, while India has the lowest rate in the world with just a few cents per GB.

The South Korean mobile market rapidly transformed from a voice and SMS to a mobile Internet-dominated market. With a continued drive to convert smartphones users to digital shoppers and therefore increasing mobile operators’ consumers share of wallet. Mobile operators are increasing market segmentation and deliver innovative offerings targeting households with digital services such as music, video streaming, digital payments and bundles of other services such as home automation, IPTV and fixed broadband.

Broadband Subscribers – FTTH Push to Gigabit Speeds

After over 20 years of investments in fibre infrastructure, South Korea boasts one of the highest FTTH penetration in the world as well as one of the most advanced, consumer broadband products offering speeds up to 10Gbps. Most people use above 100Mbps packages which are mostly bundled with mobile services by the three dominant players, KT, SK Telecom and LG Uplus.

Fixed broadband penetration is forecasted to grow modestly as South Korea’s investments in full-fibre networks are now reaching maturity with affordable packages and increased broadband household penetration growing towards saturation.

ThematicsTelecoms Infrastructure / 5G / M&A / Infrastructure

Infrastructure funds, pension funds and government funds are assigning high valuation multiples to telecommunications infrastructure assets such as mobile towers, data centres, submarine cable and fibre infrastructure.

Investment funds are assigning high valuation multiples to telecommunications infrastructure assets such as mobile towers, data centres, submarine cable and fibre infrastructure. This report outlines some real market examples of how investors view and value these investments with real industry examples and EV/EBITDA comparatives and benchmarks.

Our South Korea Telecoms Industry Report transactions database analysis highlights the dearth of inbound (domestic) transactions in the South Korea telecommunications services market, with the largest transactions from SK Telcom and LG Uplus bulking up their fixed broadband and IPTV business units and consolidating their position by acquiring smaller operators. Most other transactions are expected in the data centre, IoT and cloud computing sector with SK Telcom and LG Uplus investing in e-Commerce and enterprise services.

The arrival of 4G moved the Internet off our desktops into our palms and pockets, 5G could transform the network from something we carry around to something taking us around either virtually (augmented reality or virtual reality) or in reality (autonomous vehicles), the 5G outcome and benefits beyond fast connectivity remain largely unknown in terms of business models, investments required and timeline.

CMB, D’Live, Dreamline, Hyundai CNS, KT, LG Uplus, SK Telecom

South Korea Telecoms Industry Report – Table of Contents

Table of Contents

1       Key Statistics
1.1        South Korea Population
1.2        South Korea Households
1.3        South Korea’s GDP

2       Overall Telecommunications Market, 2016–2030
2.1        Market Overview
2.2        South Korea’s Race to Lead in 5G and Beyond
2.3        Historical Telecommunications Market Revenue, 2016-2022
2.4        Overall Telecommunications Market Forecast, 2022-2030
2.5        Telecommunications Market Capital Expenditure, 2016-2030
2.5.1      Historical Telecommunications Capex Spend, 2016-2022
2.5.2      Capex to Revenue Benchmark
2.5.3      Capex to GDP Benchmark
2.5.4      Telecommunications Capex Spend Forecast, 2022-2030

3       Telecommunications Operators Profile
3.1        SK Telecom Profile
3.1.1      SK Telecom Revenue, EBITDA and Capex Mix
3.2        KT Profile
3.2.1      KT Revenue, EBITDA and Capex Mix
3.3        LG Uplus Profile
3.3.1      LG Uplus Corporation Revenue, EBITDA and Capex Mix

4       Mobile Market
4.1        Mobile Subscribers Historical and Forecast, 2016-2030
4.1.1      Mobile Subscribers Historical, 2016-2023
4.1.2      Mobile Subscribers Market Share, 2016-2023
4.1.3      South Korea Smartphone Share, 2023
4.1.4      South Korea Mobile Subscribers Forecast, 2022-2030
4.1.5      South Korea Mobile Subscribers by Generation (2G, 3G, 4G & 5G) Forecast, 2022-2030
4.2        Mobile Revenue Historical and Forecast, 2016-2030
4.2.1      Historical South Korea Mobile Service Revenue, 2016-2022
4.2.2      Mobile Service Revenue Forecast, 2022–2030
4.2.3      Mobile Subscribers ARPU, 2016-2023
4.3        Spectrum Holdings
4.3.1      Spectrum Pricing and Regulation
4.3.2      5G Development and Launches
4.3.3      Mobile Frequencies Portfolios Analysis
4.3.1      Spectrum Depth Benchmark by Country
4.4        Mobile Download Data and Pricing Trends
4.5        Mobile Speed Tests
4.5.1      Ookla Mobile Speed Tests
4.5.2      OpenSignal
4.6        Internet of Things (IoT)

5       Broadband Market
5.1        Fixed Broadband Subscribers Historical, 2016-2022
5.2        Fixed Broadband Subscribers Forecast, 2022-2030

6       Telecommunications Infrastructure Investments
6.1        The Success of Korea ICT Policies
6.1.1      Government ICT Plans
6.1.2      Submarine Cables

7       South Korea Telecom Towers Infrastructure Landscape
7.1.1      Tower Density Benchmark
7.2        Telco Infrastructure Comparative

8       Thematics / Opportunities
8.1        Consolidation Opportunities
8.2        Diversification Opportunities
8.2.1      e-Commerce
8.2.2      Content and IPTV
8.2.3      Artificial Intelligence (AI)
8.3        New Telecoms Operating Model
8.3.1      The Attraction of Infrastructure Multiples
8.4        5G Developments
8.4.1      5G Overview
8.4.2      5G – Relative Capex Investments and Frequency Range
8.4.3      5G OpenRAN
8.4.4      Beyond 5G and Towards 6G

9       Telco M&A Transaction Database

10     Methodology

11     Copyright Notice

South Korea Telecoms Industry Report – List of Figures

Figure 1 – Telco sector revenue as % of GDP in South Korea
Figure 2 –Revenue Profile Historical Mix (KRW bn), 2016 – 2022
Figure 3 – Telecommunications Market Revenue Pool, 2022
Figure 4 – Telecommunications Market EBITDA Pool, 2022
Figure 5 – Telecommunications Revenue & EBITDA Share Estimates, 2022
Figure 6 – Total Telecoms Market Revenue and Growth Rate (KRW bn), 2022-2030
Figure 7 – Capex to Revenue Benchmark, 2016-2022
Figure 8 – Capex to GDP Ratio Benchmark, 2016-2022
Figure 9 – Telecommunications Capital Expenditure Spend, 2000-2030
Figure 10 – SK Telecom Service Revenue Mix, 2016-2022
Figure 11 – SK Telecom Historical Revenue Mix, 2016 – 2022 (KRW bn)
Figure 12 – KT Revenue Mix, 2016-2022
Figure 13 – KT Historical Revenue Mix, 2016 – 2022 (KRW m)
Figure 14 – LG Uplus Service Revenue Mix, 2016-2022
Figure 15 – LG Uplus Historical Revenue Mix, 2016 – 2022 (KRW bn)
Figure 16 – Mobile Subscribers Share Comparison, 2016-2023
Figure 17 – Mobile Subscriber Share Comparison, 2016-2023
Figure 18 – Mobile Net Adds (000’s) Comparison, 2016-2023
Figure 19 – Mobile Subscribers Forecast, 2016-2030
Figure 20 – South Korea Mobile Subscribers by Generation (3G, 4G, 5G, & 6G) Forecast, 2022-2030
Figure 20 – Mobile Service Revenue Forecast (KRW bn), 2022-2030
Figure 21 – Mobile Subscribers ARPU (KRW), 2016-2030
Figure 22 – Mobile Frequencies by Operators and by Band (MHz)
Figure 23 – Subscriptions per MHz of Spectrum, Select Asia-Pacific Countries, 2023
Figure 24 – Mobile Handsets Monthly Download Data, 2017-2022
Figure 25 – Data Pricing Trends in Asia-Pacific (US$ per GB per month), 2017-2022
Figure 26 – Spectrum available and IoT Landscape in South Korea
Figure 27 – Broadband Subscribers Share Comparison, 2016-2023
Figure 28 – South Korea Net-Adds (000’s) by Operators, 2016-2023
Figure 29 – Broadband Subscribers Forecast, 2016-2030
Figure 30 – Development History of ICT in Korea
Figure 31 – South Korea Telecom Towers Market Share, 2023
Figure 32 – Subscribers per Tower, 2023
Figure 33 – Telecoms Providers EV/EBITDA Ranges
Figure 34 – 5G Network Slices Structure
Figure 35 – Effect of Frequency on Range
Figure 36 – 5G Capacity and Coverage Layers
Figure 37 – Relative Capex Required for 5G Network Infrastructure Investment
Figure 38 – Telecom Infra Project – OpenRAN Vision

South Korea Telecoms Industry Report – List of Tables

Table 1 – South Korea – Key Statistics
Table 2 – Telecommunications Market Revenue by Operators, 2016-2022
Table 3 – Total Telecommunications Market Revenue, 2022-2030
Table 4 – Historical Telecommunications Capex Spend, 2016-2022
Table 5 – Total Telecommunications Capex Investments Forecast, 2022-2030
Table 6 – Historical SK Telecom Revenue, EBITDA and Capex Mix, 2016-2022
Table 7 – Historical KT Revenue, EBITDA and Capex Mix, 2016-2022
Table 8 – Historical LG Uplus Revenue, EBITDA and Capex Mix, 2016-2022
Table 9 – Historical Mobile Subscribers, 2016-2022
Table 9 – Examples of South Korean MVNOs:
Table 10 – South Korea Mobile Subscribers Forecast, 2022-2030
Table 11 – South Korea Mobile Subscribers by Generation (2G, 3G, 4G & 5G) Forecast, 2022-2030
Table 11 – Historical Mobile Service Revenue, 2016-2022
Table 12 – Mobile Service Revenue Forecast, 2022-2030
Table 13 – Historical Mobile Market Blended Mobile ARPU, 2016-2023
Table 14 – Spectrum Holdings by Operators and by Bands (MHz)
Table 15 – Historical Broadband Subscribers by Service Providers and by Technology, 2016-2023
Table 16 – South Korea Broadband Subscribers Forecast, 2022-2030
Table 17 – International Submarine Cable Systems with Landing Stations in South Korea
Table 18 – SK Telecom, KT, LG Uplus Infrastructure Landscape
Table 19 – Technology Specifications (ADSL, FTTN, Fibre, 4G/LTE, 4G/LTE-A and 5G)
Table 20 – Telco Transaction Database, 2008-2023

Other Idem Est Research Telecoms Country Reports

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Asia Pacific Telecom Towers, Asia Pacific Satellite Internet

Telecoms Country Report




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