This report provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and developments in telecommunications, broadcasting and pay TV markets in North and South Korea. Subjects covered include:
Market and Industry Overviews
Major Players (fixed and mobile)
Mobile Voice and Data Markets
Internet, VoIP, IPTV
Broadband (FttH, DSL, cable TV, wireless)
Convergence and Digital Media
The development of the telecommunications sector in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is seriously impeded by the country’s parlous economic state and government repression of communication. It has been a difficult journey indeed for telecommunications in the DPRK. Though mobile services finally began in the capital Pyongyang in 2002 on a limited scale, North Korean citizens were banned from using mobile phones as of May 2004. The Chosun Ilbo newspaper has suggested that the ban might have been imposed following the oil train explosion at Ryongchon in April 2004. It has been suggested that the blast was triggered using mobile phones in an attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
North Korea’s obsession with secrecy has made it extremely difficult to get a clear picture of the sector. [In the absence of official statistics, we have made estimates.] The announcement in February 2005 that the DPRK had nuclear weapons will no doubt further prevent the flow of useful telecom technologies and expertise into the country, as well as ensuring that the country remains isolated form the rest of the world for some years to come.
South Korea has one of the most interesting and innovative telecommunications markets in the world. The Republic of Korea is a leader in many facets of the telecommunications industry. Supported by a visionary government, a creative and energetic private sector and a technology savvy population, the country continues to push ahead. The government support extends to serious levels of funding for development initiatives and R&D projects.
South Korea has the highest number of broadband connections per capita in the world. By early 2006, more than 25% of the population, or 75% of households, were broadband subscribers as the broadband market in country was reaching near saturation. It seemed that South Korea was looking for something new in the market and the introduction of WiBro broadband access, with services expected to become commercially available in 2006, was looking like the answer.
The fixed-line telephone market in South Korea continues to be dominated by the incumbent KT Corp. Dacom entered the local call services in 2004 and has made a major strategic move into Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. Hanaro Telecom was entering the long-distance and international markets. Both telcos were looking for new areas of growth. In a country where dial-up Internet is rapidly disappearing, mobile telephony has captured the hearts of the populace and a range of interesting triple-play packages are catching on, fixed-line services have an uncertain future.
The South Korean mobile market, which had been looking like it had reached a point of saturation, some how found a way to grow by a solid 5% in 2005. Mobile penetration was around 78% in early 2006, the majority of services being new generation. Not surprisingly, the country continued to be considered a leader in Third Generation (3G) mobile technology. Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA), the second 3G standard to enter the South Korean market after CMDA 2000, became commercially available in December 2003, though the service was failing to attract a significant number of subscribers. There is increasing interest in the task of upgrading the 3G networks using High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology, sometimes described in the industry as 3.5G.