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South Korea

Mobile Network Experience Report
December 2023

Opensignal is the independent global standard for analyzing consumer mobile experience. Our industry reports are the definitive guide to understanding the true experience consumers receive on wireless networks.

Author: Sam Fenwick, Principal Analyst Data Collection Period: Aug 01 - Oct 29, 2023

South Korea

Mobile Network Experience Report
December 2023

Opensignal is the independent global standard for analyzing consumer mobile experience. Our industry reports are the definitive guide to understanding the true experience consumers receive on wireless networks.

Author: Sam Fenwick, Principal Analyst

Data Collection Period: Aug 01 - Oct 29, 2023

Key Findings

The fastest overall experience in South Korea is with SK telecom

In addition to remaining the only operator in the country to ever win the Download Speed Experience award, SK telecom is the new outright winner of the Upload Speed Experience award — a change from the last report when LG U+ was the sole winner. SK telecom wins Download Speed Experience as our users on its network observe average overall download speeds of 144.9Mbps, 7.6Mbps (5.6%) faster than those seen on second-placed KT — 137.3Mbps. LG U+ is in last place with 114.2Mbps. For Upload Speed Experience, SK telecom scores 21.1Mbps, while former winner LG U+ places second with 19.9Mbps and KT brings up the rear with 17.8Mbps.

KT continues to reign supreme for 5G Availability

Once again, our KT 5G users spend the most time with an active 5G connection. KT wins the 5G Availability award outright for the third report in a row. It does so this time with a score of 45.9%, giving it a lead of 8.8 percentage points over second-placed SK telecom’s 37.1%. LG U+ has gone from statistically tying with SK telecom for second place in the last report to coming third with a score of 35.4%.

SK telecom wins both new coverage experience awards

SK telecom is the first South Korean operator to win the Coverage Experience and 5G Coverage Experience awards. These recognize operators for the extent of mobile networks in the places people live, work and travel. Coverage Experience is the geographic coverage of populated areas from users across all generations of mobile technology. Similarly, 5G Coverage Experience measures the geographic coverage of populated areas from 5G users on 5G connections only. SK telecom wins Coverage Experience with a score of 9.4 points on a 10-point scale, followed by KT with nine points and LG U+ with 8.6 points. For 5G Coverage Experience, SK telecom is in first place with 6.8 points, while KT is close behind with 6.4 points and LG U+ brings up the rear with 5.3 points.

Our SK telecom users have the most consistent experience

SK telecom wins the Consistent Quality award outright with a score of 87.3%, giving it a lead of 5.5 percentage points over LG U+’s 81.8%. KT is in last place with 75%. Consistent Quality replaces the Excellent Consistent Quality and Core Consistent Quality awards from previous reports. Consistent Quality measures if the network is sufficient to support common mobile application requirements at a level that is ‘good enough’ for users to maintain (or complete) various typical demanding tasks on their devices.

Mobile Experience Awards

December 2023, South Korea Report
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Market Overview

SK telecom continues to win the lion’s share of awards. The operator wins six awards outright, including both overall speeds awards (Download Speed Experience and Upload Speed Experience) and both new coverage experience awards (Coverage Experience and 5G Coverage Experience. SK telecom is also a joint winner across eight categories. However, the operator hasn’t had everything its way — while it has taken the Upload Speed Experience award from LG U+, it has gone from winning Video Experience, 5G Video Experience and 5G Download Speed outright to sharing them with one or more of its rivals.

LG U+ has the next largest collection of accolades, being a joint winner in eight categories, while KT is the same in five but also wins the 5G Availability award outright for the third report in a row.

Turning to recent developments in the market, the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) confirmed in November 2023 that it has begun accepting applications for 5G-suitable spectrum in the 28GHz (26.5GHz-27.3GHz) band — but SK telecom, KT and LG U+ are barred from bidding, to help enhance competition in South Korea’s mobile market. The country’s three national operators had to return their mmWave spectrum licences after failing to meet the rollout requirements set out by the licence conditions — potentially putting South Korea’s 5G leadership at risk given mmWave deployments in the U.S., Australia and Japan. Should no nationwide licences be sold, the spectrum will be offered on a regional basis. The deadline for applications is December 19, 2023.

In this Opensignal report on South Korea, we examine the mobile network experience of the three main mobile network operators: KT, LG U+ and SK telecom, over the 90-day period starting on August 1, 2023 and ending on October 29, 2023, to see how they performed.

Overall Experience
5G Experience
Coverage
Consistency
Video Experience
Live Video Experience
Games Experience
Download Speed Experience
Upload Speed Experience
Video Experience
in 0-100 points
KT
66.2
LG U+
66.1
SK telecom
67.5
017.53552.570
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
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Live Video Experience
in 0-100 points
KT
59.6
LG U+
59.3
SK telecom
60.3
016.53349.566
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image
Games Experience
in 0-100 points
KT
80.2
LG U+
82.1
SK telecom
81.5
021.54364.586
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image
Download Speed Experience
in Mbps
KT
137.3
LG U+
114.2
SK telecom
144.9
037.575112.5150
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image
Upload Speed Experience
in Mbps
KT
17.8
LG U+
19.9
SK telecom
21.1
06.51319.526
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image

Definitions

Opensignal’s Video Experience quantifies the quality of video streamed to mobile devices by measuring real-world video streams over an operator's networks. The metric is based on an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) approach, built upon detailed studies which have derived a relationship between technical parameters, including picture quality, video loading time and stall rate, with the perceived video experience as reported by real people. To calculate video experience, we are directly measuring video streams from end-user devices and using this ITU approach to quantify the overall video experience for each operator on a scale from 0 to 100. The videos tested include a mixture of resolutions — including Full HD (FHD) and 4K / Ultra HD (UHD) — and are streamed directly from the world’s largest video content providers.

In addition to Video Experience, we report on the following metrics related to video experience:

  • 5G Video Experience: The average Video Experience of Opensignal users when they were connected to an operator’s 5G network.
  • Video Experience – 5G Users: The average Video Experience of Opensignal users with a 5G device and a 5G subscription across an operator's networks. It factors in 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G video experience along with the availability of each technology.
  • 4G Video Experience: The average Video Experience of Opensignal users on an operator's 4G network.
  • 3G Video Experience: The average Video Experience of Opensignal users on an operator’s 3G network.

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Definitions

Opensignal’s Live Video Experience quantifies the quality of real-time video streamed to mobile devices by measuring video streams over an operator's network. The metric extends the existing International Telecommunication Union (ITU) approach used for Opensignal's on-demand Video Experience metric, built upon detailed studies which have derived a relationship between technical parameters, including live playback offset, picture quality, video loading time and stall rate, with the perceived live video experience as reported by real people. To calculate live video experience, we are directly measuring live video streams from end-user devices and using this extension of ITU's approach to quantify the overall live video experience for each operator on a scale from 0 to 100. The videos tested include a mixture of resolutions and are streamed directly from the world’s largest video content providers.

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Definitions

Opensignal’s Games Experience measures how mobile users experience real-time multiplayer mobile gaming on an operator’s network. Measured on a scale of 0-100, it analyzes how our users’ multiplayer mobile gaming experience is affected by mobile network conditions including latency, packet loss and jitter.

Games Experience quantifies the experience when playing real-time multiplayer mobile games on mobile devices connected to servers located around the world. The approach is built on several years of research quantifying the relationship between technical network parameters and the gaming experience as reported by real mobile users. These parameters include latency (round trip time), jitter (variability of latency) and packet loss (the proportion of data packets that never reach their destination). Additionally, it considers multiple genres of multiplayer mobile games to measure the average sensitivity to network conditions. The games tested include some of the most popular real-time multiplayer mobile games (such as Fortnite, Pro Evolution Soccer and Arena of Valor) played around the world.

Calculating Games Experience starts with measuring the end-to-end experience from users’ devices to internet end-points that host real games. The score is then measured on a scale from 0 to 100.

In addition to Games Experience, we report on the following metrics related to games experience:

  • 5G Games Experience: The average Games Experience of Opensignal users when they were connected to an operator’s 5G network.
  • Games Experience – 5G Users: The average Games Experience of Opensignal users with a 5G device and a 5G subscription across an operator's networks. It factors in 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G games experience along with the availability of each technology.
  • 4G Games Experience: The average Games Experience of Opensignal users on an operator's 4G network.
  • 3G Games Experience: The average Games Experience of Opensignal users on an operator's 3G (e.g. UMTS/HSPA or CDMA 1X EV-DO) network.

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Definitions

Measured in Mbps, Download Speed Experience represents the typical everyday speeds a user experiences across an operator’s mobile data networks.

In addition to Download Speed Experience, we report on the following metrics related to download speeds:

  • 5G Download Speed: The average download speed observed by Opensignal users with active 5G connections.
  • Download Speed Experience – 5G Users: The average download speeds experienced by Opensignal users with a 5G device and a 5G subscription across an operator’s networks. It factors in 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G download speeds along with the availability of each technology.
  • 4G Download Speed: The average downlink speed observed by Opensignal users when they were connected to 4G.
  • 3G Download Speed: The average downlink speed observed by Opensignal users when they were connected to 3G (e.g. UMTS/HSPA or CDMA 1X EV-DO).

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Definitions

Upload Speed Experience measures the average upload speeds for each operator observed by our users across their mobile data networks. Typically upload speeds are slower than download speeds, as current mobile broadband technologies focus resources on providing the best possible download speed for users consuming content on their devices. As mobile internet trends move away from downloading content to creating content and supporting real-time communications services, upload speeds are becoming more vital and new technologies are emerging that boost upstream capacity.

In addition to Upload Speed Experience, we report on five supporting metrics related to upload speeds:

  • 5G Upload Speed: The average upload speed observed by Opensignal users with active 5G connections.
  • Upload Speed Experience – 5G Users: The average upload speeds experienced by Opensignal users with a 5G device and a 5G subscription across an operator’s networks. It factors in 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G upload speeds along with the availability of each technology.
  • 4G Upload Speed: The average uplink speed observed by Opensignal users when they were connected to 4G.
  • 3G Upload Speed: The average uplink speed observed by Opensignal users when they were connected to 3G (e.g. UMTS/HSPA or CDMA 1X EV-DO).

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5G Video Experience
5G Live Video Experience
5G Games Experience
5G Download Speed
5G Upload Speed
5G Video Experience
in 0-100 points
KT
70.9
LG U+
72.1
SK telecom
73.0
019385776
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image
5G Live Video Experience
in 0-100 points
KT
62.2
LG U+
62.9
SK telecom
63.6
016.53349.566
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image
5G Games Experience
in 0-100 points
KT
85.1
LG U+
84.7
SK telecom
85.5
022.54567.590
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image
5G Download Speed
in Mbps
KT
409.2
LG U+
414.9
SK telecom
424.6
0107.5215322.5430
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image
5G Upload Speed
in Mbps
KT
40.0
LG U+
43.5
SK telecom
51.1
014284256
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image

Definitions

5G Video Experience quantifies the quality of mobile video experienced by Opensignal users on real-world video streams when they were connected to 5G. The metric is based on an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) approach, built upon detailed studies which have derived a relationship between technical parameters, including picture quality, video loading time and stall rate, with the perceived video experience as reported by real people. To calculate 5G Video Experience, we are directly measuring video streams from end-user devices and using this ITU approach to quantify the video experience observed by our users on each operator’s 5G network on a scale from 0 to 100. The videos tested include a mixture of resolutions — including Full HD (FHD) and 4K / Ultra HD (UHD) — and are streamed directly from the world’s largest video content providers.

Learn more

Definitions

Opensignal’s Live Video Experience quantifies the quality of real-time video streamed to mobile devices by measuring video streams over an operator's network. The metric extends the existing International Telecommunication Union (ITU) approach used for Opensignal's on-demand Video Experience metric, built upon detailed studies which have derived a relationship between technical parameters, including live playback offset, picture quality, video loading time and stall rate, with the perceived live video experience as reported by real people. To calculate live video experience, we are directly measuring live video streams from end-user devices and using this extension of ITU's approach to quantify the overall live video experience for each operator on a scale from 0 to 100. The videos tested include a mixture of resolutions and are streamed directly from the world’s largest video content providers.

5G Live Video Experience quantifies the quality of mobile video experienced by Opensignal users on real-world live video streams when they were connected to 5G.

Learn more

Definitions

5G Games Experience measures how mobile users experience real-time multiplayer mobile gaming on an operator's 5G network. It analyzes how our users’ multiplayer mobile gaming experience was affected by mobile network conditions including latency, packet loss and jitter. 5G Games Experience for each operator is calculated on a scale from 0 to 100.

5G Games Experience quantifies the experience when playing real-time multiplayer mobile games on mobile devices connected to servers located around the world. The approach is built on several years of research quantifying the relationship between technical network parameters and the gaming experience as reported by real mobile users. These parameters include latency (round trip time), jitter (variability of latency) and packet loss (the proportion of data packets that never reach their destination). Additionally, it considers multiple genres of multiplayer mobile games to measure the average sensitivity to network conditions. The games tested include some of the most popular real-time multiplayer mobile games (such as Fortnite, Pro Evolution Soccer and Arena of Valor) played around the world. Calculating 5G Games Experience starts with measuring the end-to-end experience from users’ devices to internet end-points that host real games.

Learn more

Definitions

5G Download Speed shows the average download speed experienced by Opensignal users across an operator’s 5G network. 5G Download Speed for each operator is calculated in Mbps (Megabits per second).

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Definitions

5G Upload Speed measures the average upload speeds experienced by Opensignal users across an operator’s 5G network. 5G Upload Speed for each operator is calculated in Mbps (Megabits per second).

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KT

LG U+

SK telecom

Coverage Experience
5G Coverage Experience
Availability
5G Availability
Coverage Experience
in 0-10 points
KT
9.0
LG U+
8.6
SK telecom
9.4
02.557.510
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
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5G Coverage Experience
in 0-10 points
KT
6.5
LG U+
5.3
SK telecom
6.8
02468
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
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Availability
% of time
KT
99.7
LG U+
99.8
SK telecom
99.8
0255075100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
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5G Availability
% of time
KT
45.9
LG U+
35.4
SK telecom
37.1
012.52537.550
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image

Definitions

The Opensignal Coverage Experience metric measures the extent of mobile networks in the places people live, work and travel. The metric represents the experience users receive as they travel around areas where they would reasonably expect to find coverage.

Traditional coverage metrics typically estimate either a percentage of land area covered, or a percentage of population covered; often neither will be an accurate measurement of the true user expectation and experience. In many markets there are areas where neither population density nor geographic area reflect the importance of coverage to users. For example, in a large mountain range most users will not expect coverage in the wilderness, but poor coverage in the relatively small area of a ski resort is critical for the enjoyment of a holiday. Estimates based purely on population give undue significance to coverage in the most densely populated areas.

Coverage Experience measures geographic coverage of populated areas and therefore more accurately reflects the coverage expectations and experience of typical users. It can give a result that is somewhat different to traditional estimates based on either geographic or population measures. The metric uses a scale from 0 to 10.

Map Definition

The coverage maps show the locations where we received measurements from users connecting with 3G or better mobile service. Each map provides an indication of the areas in which it is possible to obtain mobile service from that mobile operator.

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Definitions

The Opensignal Coverage Experience metric measures the extent of mobile networks in the places people live, work and travel. The metric represents the experience users receive as they travel around areas where they would reasonably expect to find coverage.

Traditional coverage metrics typically estimate either a percentage of land area covered, or a percentage of population covered; often neither will be an accurate measurement of the true user expectation and experience. In many markets there are areas where neither population density nor geographic area reflect the importance of coverage to users. For example, in a large mountain range most users will not expect coverage in the wilderness, but poor coverage in the relatively small area of a ski resort is critical for the enjoyment of a holiday. Estimates based purely on population give undue significance to coverage in the most densely populated areas.

Coverage Experience measures geographic coverage of populated areas and therefore more accurately reflects the coverage expectations and experience of typical users. It can give a result that is somewhat different to traditional estimates based on either geographic or population measures. The metric uses a scale from 0 to 10.

5G Coverage Experience shows the proportion of places Opensignal users with a 5G device and a 5G subscription had an active 5G connection.

Map Definition

The coverage maps show the locations where we received measurements from users connecting with 3G or better mobile service. Each map provides an indication of the areas in which it is possible to obtain mobile service from that mobile operator.

Learn more

Definitions

Our availability metrics are not a measure of a network’s geographical extent. They won’t tell you whether you are likely to get a signal if you plan to visit a remote rural or nearly uninhabited region. Instead, they measure what proportion of time people have a network connection, in the places they most commonly frequent — something often missed by traditional coverage metrics. Looking at when users have a connection rather than where, provides us with a more precise reflection of the true user experience.

We also keep track of the instances that leave mobile users most frustrated: when there is no signal to connect to at all. The most common dead zones users struggle with occur indoors. As most of our availability data is collected indoors (as that’s where users spend most of their time), we’re particularly astute at detecting areas of zero signal.

Our availability metrics take a user-centric, time-based approach that complements the user-centric and geographical-based methodology used by our reach metrics.

Availability shows the proportion of time all Opensignal users on an operator’s network had either a 3G, 4G or 5G connection.

Map Definition

The coverage maps show the locations where we received measurements from users connecting with 3G or better mobile service. Each map provides an indication of the areas in which it is possible to obtain mobile service from that mobile operator.

Learn more

Definitions

Our availability metrics are not a measure of a network’s geographical extent. They won’t tell you whether you are likely to get a signal if you plan to visit a remote rural or nearly uninhabited region. Instead, they measure what proportion of time people have a network connection, in the places they most commonly frequent — something often missed by traditional coverage metrics. Looking at when users have a connection rather than where, provides us with a more precise reflection of the true user experience.

We also keep track of the instances that leave mobile users most frustrated: when there is no signal to connect to at all. The most common dead zones users struggle with occur indoors. As most of our availability data is collected indoors (as that’s where users spend most of their time), we’re particularly astute at detecting areas of zero signal.

Our availability metrics take a user-centric, time-based approach that complements the user-centric and geographical-based methodology used by our reach metrics.

5G Availability shows the proportion of time Opensignal users with a 5G device and a 5G subscription had an active 5G connection.

Map Definition

The coverage maps show the locations where we received measurements from users connecting with 3G or better mobile service. Each map provides an indication of the areas in which it is possible to obtain mobile service from that mobile operator.

Learn more

Consistent Quality
Consistent Quality
% of tests
KT
75.0
LG U+
81.8
SK telecom
87.3
022.54567.590
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Read why confidence intervals are important.
Download Image

Definitions

Consistent Quality measures if the network is sufficient to support common mobile application requirements at a level that is ‘good enough’ for users to maintain (or complete) various typical tasks on their devices.

We combine different experience indicators such as download speed, upload speed, latency, jitter, packet discard, and time to first byte to calculate Consistent Quality. These components are evaluated against thresholds recommended by various more demanding common applications used for a range of common tasks.

To calculate the metric value, the proportion of tests that pass the requirements of Consistent Quality is multiplied by the test success ratio, which is the proportion of completed tests to all tests conducted. Tests that pass indicate that activities such as video calling, uploading an image to social media, or using smart home applications will be possible without noticeable lag or slowdown.

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Related Analysis

Our Methodology

Collecting billions of individual measurements daily from over 100 million devices globally, Opensignal independently analyzes mobile user experience on every major network operator around the globe.

About Opensignal

Opensignal is the mobile analytics company committed to improving mobile connectivity across the globe. We are the independent authority for understanding the true experience consumers receive on wireless networks.

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