iPhone Headed to South Korea in November
The iPhone is finally coming to the world’s most wired country. South Korean regulators on Wednesday cleared the iPhone for sale, amending a rule that requires all cellphones sold in the country to use domestic location-based services.
“The commission has endorsed the local sale of the iPhone and the launch of its service within the limits of the law,” said Lee Tae-hee, a spokesman of the Korea Communications Commission. “If Apple includes location based-related details as a form of an agreement to its strategic partners such as KT, Apple’s iPhone can give location-related services here.”
Great news for Apple (AAPL). The South Korean market is a robust one, and analysts say that with the right carrier partner, Cupertino could be looking at sales over the first year ranging from 500,000 to two million. That said, they note that competing with the likes of Samsung and LG on their home turf won’t be easy. Between them, they control about 70 percent of the South Korean handset market.
“There seem to be a lot of people waiting for iPhones to go on sale here but it will not be easy for Apple to crack the Korean market as Samsung and LG already dominate the market with competitive phones,” said Jae Lee, analyst at Daiwa Securities in Seoul. “It will be difficult for Apple to steal market share significantly from the Korean makers in the short term but the iPhone could still be a threat to Samsung and LG in the long term.”
When the iPhone finally does arrive at market in South Korea, it will likely be with KT (formerly known as Korea Telecom) as a carrier partner. As Dan Butterfield over at iPhonAsia notes, KT CFO Yeon-hak Kim suggested as much this past summer. “Apple iPhone will be in our smartphone line-up,” he said in August. “iPhone will help to expand the smartphone market and will contribute to increasing the ARPU (average revenue per user).”
KT officials are telling the Korea Times that they’re looking at a November launch date. “KT has been in talks with Apple to introduce iPhones,” said a KT official. “Sometime in November, the latest iPhone model dubbed as ‘iPhone 3GS’ and its previous model will be commercialized. KT and Apple will decide on the coverage of location-based services.”