The number of fourth-generation long-term evolution (LTE) network users in Korea hit the 8.4 million mark with the figure expected to nearly double by year's end, industry sources said Sunday.
Sources said SK Telecom Co., Korea's largest mobile carrier, reported its 4 millionth subscriber on Friday, 44 days after it said user numbers reached 3 million.
KT Corp., the country's No. 2 mobile communication service provider, said it provided LTE service to 1.4 million users as of early last week, with the number growing steadily on a daily basis.
LG Uplus Corp., South Korea's smallest mobile carrier, said that people using its fourth-generation network should break the 3 million mark in a few days, as more and more people opt for the super-fast communications network that allows people to see movies with no lag time and download full-length movies in seconds.
Industry insiders said the popularity of LTE-capable smartphones and creation of nationwide networks are spurring rapid growth.
SK Telecom said it completed setting up a network covering the entire country late last month. The company said that coming into July, LTE subscriber numbers surged 71 percent on a daily basis vis-a-vis June.
LG Uplus, which had been the first local mobile carrier to build a fourth-generation network across the country, said thanks to the surge in LTE users, it will be able to have 10 million telecommunication service subscribers by the end of 2012, compared to around 9 million in 2010 and 2011.
KT, meanwhile, said last week that it is moving to start so-called voice over LTE (VoLTE) services, to compete more effectively with rivals.
VoLTE allows consumers to use both voice and data services simultaneously. It is also claimed to offer superior voice communication quality.
SK Telecom and LG Uplus said they will be using this technology in their services.
Telecommunication sector watchers said besides offering more advanced technologies, local mobile carriers are stepping up their drive to give better contents, and beefing up reward services to win over users in the heavily saturated market.
"If the number of LTE users increases at the present pace, total subscribers can surpass 10 million within the third quarter and 16 million by year's end," a market watchers said. (Yonhap)