Korean operator SK Telecom expects to end 2021 with approximately 9 million 5G subscribers, the company’s CFO Poong Young Yoon, said during a conference call with investors.

The executive said that SK Telecom had 5.48 million 5G subscribers at end-2020.

The telco added a total of 1.21 million 5G subscribers in the last quarter of 2020. For full 2020, SK Telecom saw the addition of 3.4 million subscribers in the 5G segment.

“In 2020, our MNO leadership was reconfirmed as we increased 5G market share and maintained the first position through reasonable market operation and distribution innovation to cater to the non-face-to-face business environment,” the executive added.

South Korea as a whole ended 2020 with 11.85 million 5G subscribers, according to data from the Ministry of Science and ICT. In December 2020, Korean operators added approximately 900,000 5G subscribers.

The country’s current 5G base accounted for 16.8% of the total 70.5 million mobile network subscriptions in the country at end-December.

The country’s three operators launched 5G technology in April 2019, and 5G networks are available mostly in large cities.

Financial Results

SK Telecom’s CFO also said that the carrier will accelerate its evolution towards becoming a global ICT player with “unrivalled competitiveness in AI” and make efforts to achieve a record annual revenue of KRW20 trillion ($17.9 billion) in 2021, a 7.4% increase from KRW18.6 trillion in 2020.

SK Telecom’s revenues last year grew by 5% compared to 2019. This revenue growth was mainly boosted by a 15.3% increase in SK Telecom’s ‘New ICT’ business areas, including media and commerce. The combined total operating income of the New ICT businesses accounted for 24% of the company’s operating income for 2020.

Mobile service revenue grew by 2.8% to KRW 11.74 trillion. The telco also posted a net income of KRW 1.501 trillion in 2020, an increase of 74.3% year-on-year.

SK Telecom said a strong performance from its chipmaker affiliate SK hynix improved its bottom line. The mobile operator holds a 20% stake in the company.

“In 2020, despite the unprecedented pandemic situation, SK Telecom achieved meaningful results with the highest-ever revenue and operating income growth,” Poong Young Yoon said on the quarterly call. “We believe that these achievements have been driven by constant innovation of services and technology-based on AI and a competitive business portfolio that allowed us to remain competitive in the nonface-to-face business environment. This year, we will further advance the business portfolio, carry out our first subsidiary IPO and strive for constant innovation and growth, based on AI and openness, in order to create greater corporate value.”

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