The amounts of capex set by Korea's top-three telecom operators, SK Telecom (SKT), Korea Telecom (KT) and LG U+, in 2021 and 2022, respectively, will be higher than those seen in 2020, according to Digitimes Research.
The three telecom operators will see their capex increase significantly in 2021-2022, because they are accelerating the rollouts of their 5G networks that will be sufficient to cover all areas of the country by year-end 2022.
The number of 5G service subscribers in Korea reached 14.48 million in the first quarter of 2021, up 20% from a year earlier.
The three firms managed to add over 2.6 million new 5G service subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, respectively, thanks to the increasing availability of 5G phones, Digitimes Research observed.
SKT had 6.736 million 5G service subscribers by the end of the first quarter of 2021, accounting for the largest 46.6% share. But SKT also saw its ARPU for all of its mobile users decline in the first quarter compared to the level of a year earlier.
On the other hand, LG U+ experienced declines in its 5G service subscribers in first-quarter 2021 but saw its mobile ARPU rise during the period.
Accumulated capital spending of the three firms totaled KRW1 trillion (US$800 million) in first-quarter 2021 and is poised to increase gradually from the second quarter onward.
However, the three telecom operators are likely to face bottlenecks for the rollouts of 28GHz mmWave base stations and fail to reach the goal of setting up 45,000 mmWave base stations by year-end 2021.