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Tech: Demand for 4G LTE Smartphones Heats Up in South Korea


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by Jared Heng

Riding high on the global wave of smartphone frenzy is South Korea, one of the most technologically advanced and digitally connected countries in the world. The ongoing smartphone boom saw the industry doubling in value in the last 12 months, selling nearly 400,000 units more than a year before. This translates to immense growths of 129 per cent and 55 per cent in value and volume respectively.

According to research company GfK Korea, Koreans’ penchant for smartphones was reflected in an average of some 92,000 smartphones being snapped up each month. Within the recent 12 months, the US$5.45-billion smartphone market recorded sales of 11 million units of this popular gadget. Today, smartphones contribute 96 per cent in value to the overall mobile phone sales and make up 85 per cent of the sales volume.

“With the country’s high internet connectivity, users have a more compelling reason to upgrade their telecommunication device from the basic feature phone to the more advanced smartphone,” said Moongen Kwon, General Manager of GfK Korea. “Last year, over four in five mobile phones purchased were smartphones, making us a nation with one of the fastest rates of adoption and highest levels of penetration in the world.”

The launch of fourth-generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) services and expected completion of nationwide coverage by 2012 provide Koreans yet another good reason to further enhance their smartphones from 3G to LTE-enabled ones. In recent months, GfK noted consistent month-on-month spikes in sales of LTE-enabled phones, with the latest January figures reflecting a 42-per cent take up rate among all smartphones, compared with 32 per cent the month before.

This surge in consumer demand has also prompted manufacturers to introduce more new and exciting LTE smartphones in the market, GfK said. From two models available in the market last September, consumers now have options of over 49 LTE smartphone models to cherry-pick from.

“The smartphone industry will no doubt continue to evolve rapidly. As the country (South Korea) continues in its quest to achieve full LTE coverage and migrating users to LTE networks, we can foresee competition to further heat up, as well as anticipate lots of interesting developments and exciting trends emerging in the Korean telecommunications market,” Kwon said.