Koreans’ monthly mobile data usage surpasses 15GB for first time in July

2023.09.15 10:05:02 | 2023.09.15 13:04:17

[Image source: Gettyimagesbank]이미지 확대

[Image source: Gettyimagesbank]

The average monthly data usage per smartphone user in South Korea topped 15 gigabytes (GB) for the first time in July, more than doubling since the country rolled out fifth generation (5G) service in April 2019.

According to the Ministry of Science and ICT on Thursday, the average data traffic per mobile user was 15.8GB as of July, up 2.3 times from 6.8GB in April 2019 when 5G services were first offered. The traffic suggests that a mobile user in Korea watches a daily average of around 30 minutes of real-time video in high-definition quality on platforms including YouTube and Netflix per month.

In terms of household expenses, communication service costs increased by about 5 percent to 99,507 won ($74.9) in the second quarter of this year from 94,461 won in the same period in 2019. The relatively small surge suggests that data usage has increased sharply over the years relative to the cost for subscribers.

“The current cost for 5G per GB is more than 70 percent cheaper than long term evolution (LTE),” according to a report released by SK telecom Co., the country’s top telecommunications service provider. “5G customers tend to use over 50 percent more data than LTE subscribers.”

Government statistics showed that 5G subscribers used a monthly average of 28GB of data per person while LTE subscribers were limited to around 7GB.

SK telecom noted a 50 percent data difference between 5G and LTE users but this difference was up to about 4 times in official government statistics.

The reason for the difference is 37 percent of LTE mobile subscribers use budget mobile phone plans and tend to use less data.

Compared with 3G, the previous generation of communication technology, the average data usage was only 0.05GB per person. There were about 2.28 million 3G users as of July, of which most are elderly people who mainly use voice calls and text messages.

“From the telecom companies’ perspective, they want to discontinue the unprofitable 3G service but they are conscious of the government,” an industry official said. “If they get rid of 3G, they can dismantle related base stations, save on electricity costs, and utilize idle land.”

The industry expects that mobile service operators will only be able to discontinue 3G services when the proportion of 3G users falls to 1 percent of the companies’ total mobile phone subscriber, following the precedent set by 2G, which was discontinued in 2021.

Currently, there are 56 million mobile users in Korea and 3G subscribers should fall below 500,000 for the mobile carriers to consider discontinuing 3G.

“It is yet too early to discuss 3G’s termination,” the Ministry of Science and ICT said.

Meanwhile, some OECD countries are discontinuing 3G services. The three major U.S. telecom companies - AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon - terminated 3G services last year. UK telecom companies also plan to terminate the services by 2025 and Singapore’s leading telecom company Singtel plans to do so by July next year.

By Na Hyun-joon and Lee Eun-joo

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]