There are three major broadband internet providers: KT Corporation, SK Broadband, and LG Uplus. As of 2019, KT Corporation was the market leader with around 41 percent of all subscriptions to high-speed internet. KT Corporation started as a state-owned telephone company in 1981 but was privatized in order to fuel competition in 2002.
The government took an important role in the development of landlines and the expansion of the internet. The influence of the government on internet development has not been declining. Long before South Korea introduced 5G, the government formed a pan-governmental committee that included private companies and academic institutes. This meant that all those forces were supposed to work together to introduce 5G as fast as possible. In April 2019, South Korea introduced commercial 5G. In April 2020, it had more than six million subscribers.
Since 5G contracts still use upswitching (meaning that users are connected to 4G except they use a 5G service), the base of the fast expansion is a strong 4G network – and South Korea has one of the best. According to data collected mid-2019, one providers even offered a 99.5 percent availability of 4G networks. In February 2020, South Korea saw around 55.5 million 4G subscriptions.
As of April 2020, the leading mobile internet carrier was SK telecom, which belongs to the same conglomerate as SK broadband. It saw around 29 million subscribers, out of 69.3 million total subscribers in April 2020. SK telecom was followed by KT with around 18.4 million subscribers and LG Uplus with 14.4 million subscribers. When it comes to 5G, SK telecom secured its market leading position once again, with around 2.9 million subscribers out of a total of 6.3 million subscriptions. Even though SK telecom had the lowest number of base stations in September 2019, the network had the highest experienced 5G availability in early 2020.