20060422

Subsidies - 2nd Korean Wave

KTF ignited Korea's second round of handset subsidies* and SKT followed yesterday. Consumers don't quite understand the sophisticated grids proposed by the operators but the message is clear : you'll get more if you're a loyal big spender.
For example, at SK Telecom, you're still offered 70,000 wons if you joined the company during the last three years and if you spend less than 30,000 wons per month... but if you've been a client for over 8 years and spend over 90,000 wons per month, subsidies reach 240,000 wons and that's a 26% increase since March the 27th.
People who joined the back-then-not-yet-broad-bandwagon in '96 and spend about 80 euros per month are either business users or deep pocket early adopters (if not both) : core targets for such expensive next gen devices as DMB handsets.

The thing is SKT badly need to boost subscriptions to TU media and its business flavor TU media Corp**. End of March, almost all SKT consumers had WAP enabled (99.5%) and color (92.8%) phones. And it looks as if not everybody will need 3G (unless the operator gives up 2G) : EV-DO penetration reaches 44.6% (of which 90% are June enabled), but the score was already 38.3% end of March last year and SKT started before Japan's KDDI, a 96% 3G cellco***. The same could be said about Nate - active users stuck around 55% of the customer base.
Actually, from a wireless ARPU point of view, I'm not sure TU is such a great booster. But far beyond, the transformation of the cellco into a powerful multimedia broadcaster and content provider remains impressive.
SKT's other growth engines require time : m-commerce becomes mainstream (and it shows in ARPU), but international operations remain quite small (of the 20 M global customer bases, 19.7 M live in Korea...). We'll see how Helio** performs in the US.
And we'll aslo see how KTF performs in Korea with W-CDMA and his new international partner NTT DoCoMo...


* see "Saving private Korea Inc - back to subsidies, but no way back" (20060326).

** see previous posts on SKT's S-DMB service (TU) and US M-VNO (Helio).
*** even if you cannot compare the circumstances : SKT a leader in a pure CDMA country, and KDDI a CDMA laggard in a PDC country (who became #2 thanks to an aggressive 3G strategy).



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