As Daum goes (a bit) mAd, SK Telecom jumps to L Commerce and Mobile Virtual Banking Operator

I've been expecting a lot from Korea's leading portals Naver and Daum*, but so far, they've not exactly revolutionized mobile internet. For instance, they've only recently set a timid foot into mobile advertising**.

To their credit, it's hard to get a slice of the wireless pie consistent with their impressive web portal market share, even after the implementation of USIM cards, which undermined Korean MNO's lock on handsets, and even after the rise of smartphone apps, which also weakened their positions on the value chain.

According to KoreanClick, #1 NHN / Naver controls 63% of the portal market (31 M Unique Visitors for Naver.com in April 2010) and #2 Daum 21% (28.9 M UV), but #3 Nate (10% MS, 24.7 M UV) can leverage on key enablers provided by owner SK Telecom : the leading cellco, already a quadplay giant, has always put a lot of importance on Location Based Services and financial enablers.

That focus has become even more evident with the creation of the Hana Bank - SKT JV (see "
SK Telecom's Wild Hana Card"), confirmed by the first services earlier this year***. The recently rebranded Hana SK Card targets 400 to 500,000 cardholders by EOY 2010.

SKT has also been redefining the "mobile wallet" concept over the past few weeks : leveraging on Visa PayWave radio frequency technology, the "T Smart Pay" (always that "T" umbrella brand of SKT's) concept allows the consumer to monitor up to 8 credit cards, 30 mileage / point cards, and 50 coupons with the same '13.56MHz RF SIM' card (always that "technerdy" trend of SKT's), to the risk of storing all your most critical information on one single device. Each time you present it for a contactless payment, you're proposed the choice between all registered cards.

Of course, Hana SK Card holders can also enjoy a simplified UI :

Here, SKT almost acts like a Mobile Virtual Banking Operator roaming on tens of rival networks and helping the consumer make the most of each buck, picking the best provider depending on the store, account status, promotion... Needless to say that this entry point will be massively exploited for contextual offers : ever since NATE Coupons, SK Telecom has been a major innovator in couponing and in July, SKT will launch 'L-commerce', a new set of Location Based Services bound to confirm the return of its mojo.

About ten years ago, I was impressed by how deep this player ventured into new trades like media or banking. Since then, SK Telecom didn't fully succeed overseas as a classic mobile operator, and at one moment lost some appeal as the marketing king at home, but lately, it seems to be experiencing a revival. Even telematics are back in fashion (SKT MIV / Mobile in Vehicle).

Note that on the more traditional battlefield, SK confirmed 8 more Android handsets by EOY (see "
SK Telecom pushes Android"), and KT remains the most likely guess for the iPad exclusivity : Apple's latest gizmo is being approved for import, and TriGem, Samsung, and LG will suffer from a minimized delay before their own tablets****.

mot-bile 2010

* see "
KT claims 500,000 iPhones"
** "
Daum rolls out mobile advertising network" (JoongAng Daily 20100511)
*** see "
Wal-Mart's Vudu Trance - home entertainment and apps"
**** see "
Samsung S Pad in a Flash"

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