Mobile Nature :

iPhone in South Korea, Soon To Be In All Major Asian Markets

The regulatory agency in charge of telecommunications in South Korean has approved Apple’s iPhone for entrance to the country. Two wireless carriers are now in negotiations with Apple to carry the iPhone: SK Telecom Co, Ltd. and KT Corporation.

KT Corporation, a former state run monopoly, has 90% of the wireline telephone service and is the largest provider of broadband with a 40% market share. While KT may dominate wireline broadband, SK Telecom is the largest wireless provider with over 23 million customers.

iPhone’s imminent entry into the South Korean mobile wireless market, Apple’s negotiated agreement with Unicom to carry the iPhone in China by the end of 2009, the iPhone release in Japan last July, Apple will soon have the iPhone placed in all of the three largest Asian markets.

Despite Apple’s major success in other markets, 2% market share in just 2 years in 80 countries, Apple’s iPhone will have many challenges in Asia. South Korea is dominated by local manufacturers like Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc., plus many others.

Japan is one of the most saturated mobile wireless markets with some of the most jaded users, what is a novel introduction in many other mobile markets can be considered commonplace. Smart phones have been long established in Japan and customers are very selective about advanced features and price sensitive. Japanese share great national pride and loyalty in their electronics manufacturers and are less than open to foreign manufacturers. Nokia and Motorola who have been wildly successful in the rest of the world have faired rather poorly in Japan.

Apple has many challenges in China: tight government control, massive competition and different technical standards but the potential is immense as the Chinese mobile market dwarfs all others by comparison of population. I detail many more issues in, “First Marco Polo now the iPhone in China”.

Despite the challenges, both unique and similar in each country, the region’s potential is huge for Apple’s iPhone. With 44 million cell subscribers in South Korea, 514 million in China and about 100 million in Japan, the region has a potential of 659 million customers. If Apple only succeeds in gaining a 2% market penetration, as they have in other countries o date, that is over 13 million iPhones. As it is very likely that the iPhone will do better, Apple should be very pleased.

Originally published in the Swiss online newspaper,, reedited for WholeThinking.

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