SK Telecom

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SK Telecom Co., Ltd.
Traded as KRX: 017670
Industry Telecommunications
Founded March 29, 1984; 31 years ago (1984-03-29)
Headquarters Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Key people
Seong Min Ha CEO
Products Mobile telephony, Wireless broadband services
Revenue Increase $13.601 billion (2010)[1]
Number of employees
Parent SK Group
Subsidiaries see this list

SK Telecom Co., Ltd. (Hangul: SK텔레콤 or 에스케이텔레콤) is a South Korean wireless telecommunications operator, controlled by the SK Group, one of the country's largest chaebols.

SK Telecom is a provider of mobile service, with 50.5% share of the South Korean market as of 2008.[2] Since its creation in 1984, the company has evolved from a first generation analog cellular system, to second generation CDMA, then to the world's first third-generation synchronized IMT-2000 cellular system. SK Telecom also became the world’s first carrier to commercialize HSDPA in May 2006.

The company’s current services include NATE, a wired and wireless integrated multi-Internet service, June, a multimedia service, MONETA, a financial service, Telematic service such as NATE Drive and even Digital Home service. In 2004, SK Telecom launched Hanbyul, the world’s first DMB satellite. SK Telecom's subsidiary TU Media provides satellite DMB. SK Telecom also offers a variety of internet services, many through its subsidiary SK Communications. Cyworld is one of the most popular blogging services in South Korea and NateOn is one of the most popular instant messengers.


SK Telecom was established in March 1984 under the name Korea Mobile Telecommunications Services Corp., but was renamed Hankuk Idong Tongshin Corp. in May 1988. It was a wholly owned subsidiary of the state monopoly phone company, Korea Telecom. In June 1994 SK Group (Formerly Sunkyong Group) became Hankuk Idong Tongshin's largest shareholder. Hankuk Idong Tongshin officially joined the SK Group in January 1997 and changed its name to SK Telecom in March of that year. In October 2000, SK Telecom became the second operator in the world after NTT's DoCoMo to launch a commercial 3G service using W-CDMA technology. In January 2002, this was followed up by launching the world's first CDMA2000 1xEV-DO network, offering greatly increased data transmission speeds.

In May 2005, SK Telecom decided to sell 60% of SK Teletech stock to Pantech. In 2006, SK Teletech has changed its brand name to "SKY" and remains as Pantech's mobile phone line.

1984–1993: Early Years[edit]

Founded on March 29, 1984 as Korea Mobile Telecommunication Services Corp., the state-owned carrier introduced pagers and mobile phone service for automobiles to the Korean market. May 1984 saw the launch of the mobile communication service for automobiles. Korea Mobile changed its name to Hankuk Idong Tongshin Corp. in May 1988. In July of the same year, Mobile Telecommunication Service was launched.

In April 1993, the South Korean government —through Hankuk— adopted CDMA as the national cellular telephone system.[3]

1994–1996: Privatization and the CDMA standard[edit]

Through privatization, SK Group became Hankuk Idong Tongshin's largest shareholder in June 1994.
In October 1994, Korea's first CDMA system was introduced to the public for the first time.

In January 1995, Hankuk reached the one million subscriber mark. Hankuk Idong Tongshin became the third Korean firm to be listed on the NYSE exchange (ADR) in June 1996.

Later that year South Korea got its first commercial CDMA (IS-95A) network. Operating in Seoul in October, it is considered one of the world's earliest commercial CDMA networks.

1997–2000: International expansion[edit]

SK Group completed its takeover of Hankuk Idong Tongshin in January 1997, as it became the world's sixth carrier to attain ten million subscribtions. Around that time, it also began constructing the Northeast Asian CDMA belt encompassing China, Japan, Vietnam, and the rest of the Asian continent.
In March 1997, to reflect new changes, Hankuk changed its name to SK Telecom, and in October, NETSGO, an online service, was launched.

In June 1998, SK Telink, the international call service division, started offering commercial overseas call service. In December 1998, SK Teletech launched its first handset. In April 1999, SK Telecom entered the Mongolian market by co-founding Skytel LLC with nearly 30 percent ownership stake.
TTL, a telecommunication brand targeting the youth market, and n.TOP, a wireless internet service were launched in July and October 1999, respectively.
In December 1999, SK Telecom surpassed ten million subscriber mark, the following month, it launched the world’s first commercial CDMA2000 service. By the end of the year the carrier won a contract for asynchronous IMT-2000 (WCDMA) facility.[4]

2001–2007: Cellular internet and market accrual[edit]

The new millennium ushered in an interconnected wired/wireless multimedia era and saw efforts to combine and converge mobile communication services, as SK Telecom was exploring new value-creating models such as m-Commerce and satellite DMB Service. In January 2002, an acquisition of Shinsegi Telecomm Inc. was completed.[5] Also in January, the company deployed world’s first commercial synchronous IMT-2000 facility.
In March 2002, the carrier struck international roaming deals between countries using CDMA and GSM networks. A contract was signed with Israel's Pelephone to power a wireless Internet platform in April. In July, a MOU was signed with China Unicom to establish a joint venture. Multimedia service ‘June’ and mobile payment service ‘MONETA’ were launched in November. In July 2003, S-Fone, a commercial CDMA network became operative in Vietnam. In August 2003, June became the world's first 3G service to have one million subscribers. In February 2004, SK won a contract for a joint venture with China Unicom, called UNISK.

March 2004 marked a new breakthrough with the launch of Hanbyul, the world’s first DMB satellite.
MelOn, an online music store was launched in November 2004. ‘1mm’ and ‘Loview,’ a digital photo frame service were launched in April and November 2005, respectively. By December, MelOn had four million subscribers.

SK Telecom started 2006 with record revenues of KRW 10 trillion (approx. $92.8 billion). In May the world's first commercial HSDPA handset was released. May also saw the carrier's entry into the U.S. wireless communication market with Helio. In June, SK Telecom signed a strategic partnership with China Unicom to purchase CB worth $1 billion in its subsidiary, China Unicom Hong Kong. In the same month SK deployed its WiBro internet network. In April 2007, a project to create TD-SCDMA, the Chinese 3G standard, was signed with the Chinese government. Around that time, S-Fone had two million subscribers in Vietnam.

2008-present: New technologies[edit]

In 2013 SK Telecom was the world's first operator to offer a publicly accessible LTE-Advanced network. This coincided with the release of the Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE-A model, which offered a step-up CPU (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 vs. Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 used in the regular model), and also LTE-Advanced capabilities. SK Telecom supported this handset at launch.[6]

On July 6, 2013, it was reported that Apple was in talks with SK Telecom, to release the iPhone 5s model on SK's LTE Advanced network.[7]


As of September 2012, SK Telecom operates 2G IS-95/CDMA 2000, 3G WCDMA/HSPA+, 4G Mobile WiMAX, and LTE networks.

Frequencies used by SK Telecom's Network in Korea
Frequency Frequency Width Protocol Class Note
800 MHz (824~829,869~874) 10 MHz CDMA 2G
850 MHz (829~839,874~884) 20 MHz LTE 3.9G Band 5 (main frequency)
1800 MHz (1715~1725,1730~1735,1810~1830) 35 MHz LTE 3.9G New band 3
1800 MHz (1755~1765,1850~1860) 20 MHz LTE 3.9G Be returned by 1Q 2014
2100 MHz (1930~1960, 2120~2150) 60 MHz UMTS/HSPA 3.5G
2300 MHz (2300~2327) 27 MHz Mobile WiMAX 3.9G

2G network supports CDMA (IS-95A/B), CDMA2000, and EV-DO. EV-DO handsets are marked with its service name “June.” 3G network supports WCDMA, HSPA, and HSPA+. SK Telecom has the best HSPA+ coverage in South Korea. HSPA+ is available in 50+ major cities and towns, while KT HSPA+ is available in selected metropolitan areas. 3.9G LTE, which uses both band 5 and band 3, supports multi-carrier technology, which SK Telecom claims to be the first operator to offer.

From May 2005 to September 2012, SK Telecom provided S-DMB through its subsidiary TU Media (later SK Telink). S-DMB service was ceased in September 2012 after significant losses in its final years.[8]

SK Telecom also provides convergence services in entertainment, business and finance.

  • MelOn: Introduced in November 2004, MelOn is SK Telecom's music e-store, which allows users to download or stream music over the internet. Music can be played on mobile phones, digital audio players, portable media players and digital cameras. Users can create their own ringtones. In 2009, LOEN Entertainment, an SK Group record label, became the company-in-charge of running MelOn. An Indonesian version of MelOn was created in cooperation with PT Telkom Indonesia.
  • m-Finance: an online banking system introduced in 2001, allows users to take charge of all their financial transactions. Properly equipped mobile phones can do basic banking such as wire transfers and checking balances as well as stock trading and credit card services. Users can also withdraw cash from ATMs using their phones.
  • Digital Home: Digital Home allows users to control and monitor home appliances, lighting, security systems and fire alarms remotely. The service also incorporates mobile communications networks, high-speed internet and cable broadcasting networks.
  • Mobile RFID (m-RFID): Phones with embedded RF readers can give users key information about a product before making a purchase. SK Telecom has tested this technology for six applications including, safety, authentication, package tracking, supply chain management, digital content usage and location-based services.

International markets[edit]

SK Telecom is currently putting its efforts in expanding into global markets, such as Vietnam, U.S., and China. The company is also forging strategic alliances with other global carriers and IT businesses.


In 2000, SK Telecom first entered China, later forming a joint venture with China Unicom for wireless Internet service in February 2004. This joint venture between a foreign and local company, UNISK, is the first of its kind in China.

In 2006, SK Telecom bought $1 billion worth of convertible bonds of China Unicom Hong Kong, a China Unicom enterprise and agreed to cooperate in joint sourcing of handsets, development of additional services, platform development, marketing and distribution, customer relationship management, and network development. One result of this partnership is jointly developing handsets to be sourced by Samsung, LG, and Motorola.

In August 2006, SK Telecom signed an MOU making it the first non-Chinese company to participate in the TD-SCDMA Project. Under the agreement SK Telecom will work with China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) on development of TD-SCDMA, China's 3G mobile telecom technology standard.

United States[edit]


On January 26, 2005, SK Telecom announced that it had formed a $440 million joint venture with Earthlink to form a new U.S. cellular carrier named SK-Earthlink, later that year, the name was changed to Helio. Combined with Earthlink, Helio is expected to offer a variety of advanced mobile devices, many of which are already available in Korea. These models would be refined and updated for use by tech-savvy American consumers, allowing for the first time handsets with functionalities previously unavailable in the U.S. market.

The now-defunct venture operated on the premise of being a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), using CDMA 1xEVDO network capacity leased from Sprint Nextel. In 2007, SK Telecom began talks to purchase a stake in Sprint Nextel,[9] however by 2008 it had backed away from the deal.[10]

On June 27, 2008, it was reported that Helio was being acquired in an all-stock deal by Virgin Mobile; for a net acquisition price of $39 million —–a far cry from the $500 million originally invested in the venture. All staff were eliminated and the business ceased as a going concern[11]

Mobile Money Ventures[edit]

On March 6, 2008, SK Telecom launched Mobile Money Ventures, a joint venture with Citibank. MMV designs, develops, implements, and supports mobile financial services solutions on a global scale. Its Mobile Money Platform can support existing mobile banking services as well as next generation services like P2P payments and NFC payments.[12]

On March 28, 2011, SK Telecom made a surprise bid to acquire bankrupt movie/game rental company Blockbuster Inc. SK bid $284.5 million for Blockbuster, but ended up losing to Dish Network.

SK Telecom Americas Innopartners[edit]

On March 4, 2014, SK Telecom announced that its U.S. arm, SK Telecom Americas, Inc. completed the establishment of the startup accelerator SK Telecom Americas Innopartners.[13] The accelerator invests in early stage core technology startups. It is set up to incubate 11 startups at the same time, an currently is hosting three of them (Etopus, N43, Pavilion Data).[14]


Main article: S-Fone

In September 2001, SK Telecom established S-Telecom, through a Business Cooperation Contract (BCC) with SPT (Saigon Postel), a Vietnamese phone company with a CDMA license.

S-Telecom, Vietnam's first CDMA wireless carrier, launched commercial services in July 2003 and has since upgraded its system to CDMA2000 1xEV-DO to meet growing demand. Currently 64 cities including Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are served under the S-Fone brand.

As of October 2006, the company was providing EV-DO wireless internet services in five major cities including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. S-Fone subscribers reached two million in April 2007, a little over three years after its start.


SK Telecom has a number of subsidiaries that support its growth. In 2006, SK Communications strengthened its linked services with SK Telecom, strengthening Korea’s top community portal Cyworld, and developing its model into a global business. Currently, Cyworld services are expanding in Asia, Europe and North America. At home, NateOn is the leading messenger service in 2006, with more than 13 million users. SK Telink, an international telephony company, launched international Korean SMS services in the U.S., and now operates in more than 170 countries. TU Media, the nationwide satellite Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) service, is also making fast growth, attracting over one million subscribers in 2006.

SK Communications[edit]

Main article: SK Communications

Since its 2002 launch as an online service provider/web portal, SK Communications has grown to be one of the most popular portals in Korea. The largest online community site in Korea, Cyworld has seen a sharp rise in its membership, with members reaching 20 million from 16 million in 2005. SK Communications also provides the top instant messaging service NateOn. As of December 2006, NateOn had 13 million users and led the local market. In 2006, the portal was revamped as a Web 2.0 customer-focused site with an emphasis on social bookmarking, personalized content and community services. Cyworld II also re-launched with Web 2.0 offerings, including a personalized mini-homepage, personalized search, UCC video and other user-customizable Web-based applications.

SK Communications is currently extending its online businesses into the global market. In 2006, localized versions of Cyworld were launched in China, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, the U.S., and Vietnam. To make full use of its premium base, the tech firm is building a portfolio of high-quality content providers, including education company Etoos; consumer shopping services under the Cymarket brand, which leverage Cyworld’s network and traffic; gaming subsidiary SK i-media; and Egloos, the leading independent blogging service in Korea. In addition, the company acquired a significant stake (24.4%) in a powerful online search engine, Empas, for KRW 37.2 billion.

SK Planet[edit]

SK Planet is a mobile solutions subsidiary of SK headquartered in Pangyo. Business areas include digital contents, integrated commerce and marketing communication.

Its October 2011 launch marked the reorganization of T Store.[15] SK Planet launched qiip, an app store in Japan.[16] 11st is one of the biggest online store complexes in South Korea under the management of SK Planet.[17] Other products include Smart Wallet, a mobile wallet service, OK Cashbag, an integrated mileage service, and Gifticon, a mobile voucher service. As part of the integrated commerce strategy these services are being combined under the brand Syrup.[18]

SK Telink[edit]

Main article: SK Telink

Founded in April 1998 as an international telephony service provider, SK Telink has grown into a major player in the international calling market. International call services are offered under the ‘00700’ brand. Building on the commercial long-distance telephony and value-added services launched in 2005, the carrier began offering Korean text messaging in June 2006 in the U.S. The service allows subscribers send and receive Korean text messages in the U.S., as well as to and from Korea.

TU Media[edit]

Main article: TU Media

Established in December 2003, TU Media Corp. introduced a new digital media service —satellite Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB). Subscribers can now view satellite TV broadcasts on their portable handsets or via vehicle-mounted terminals. As of December 2006, subscribers to TU Media topped one million, up from 372,000 in 2005. Its nationwide DMB is available on 37 channels, consisting of 16 video, 20 audio and one data, and provides programs on education, games, drama, music, news and culture. In 2006, TU Media launched TUBOX, a pay-per-view movie channel that allows subscribers to see movies prior to DVD release. In addition to South Korea's 84 cities, TU Media provides service in express highways and Seoul metropolitan subways. DMB coverage was later expanded to include the Korea Train eXpress (KTX) Seoul to Busan line, Busan subways and 10 metropolitan Seoul local highways. In 2010 TU Media was merged with another subsidiary, SK Telink —Korea's leading international call service provider. DMB broadcasts ended two years later as it became uncompetitive in the mobile TV market.


Further information: iriver and ReignCom

iriver Inc. (formerly ReignCom) is a South Korean electronics and entertainment company founded in 1999 by seven former Samsung executives. SK Telecom acquired it from Vogo Fund in 2014.[19]

Employee conditions[edit]

SK Telecom has its own workers union. SK Telecom abides by the Korean Labor Law and is executing a retirement age of 58. Unless an employee commits a crime more serious than imprisonment or an act in violation of ethical management of SK Telecom, employees are guaranteed to work until they reach the retirement age. SK Telecom follows a management system called SKMS (SK Management System), created by SK Companies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SKM Income Statement". Yahoo! Finance. 
  2. ^ Lee Sun-young (May 5, 2008). "Mobile operators pressured to cut call, message rates". Korea Herald ( Retrieved May 8, 2008. 
  3. ^ "CDMA History". CDG. 
  4. ^ Cho Hyung-rae (December 15, 2000). "SK Telecom, Korea Telecom Win IMT-2000 Licenses". The Chosun Ilbo ( 
  5. ^ "Korea approves takeover of Shinsegi". Reuters. April 26, 2000. 
  6. ^ Lawler, Richard (June 25, 2013). "SK Telecom launches the world's first LTE-Advanced network, and the Galaxy S4 LTE-A". Engadget. 
  7. ^ Christie, Robert (July 5, 2013). "iPhone 5s Release Date Rumors: New Phone Will Have 4G LTE Advanced Capabilities". Hngn. 
  8. ^ "Satellite DMB soon to become history". JoongAng Ilbo Co.,Ltd. (in Korean). Joins MSN. July 4, 2012. 
  9. ^ Koh Byung-joon (July 25, 2007). "SK TELECOM PUSHING TO ACQUIRE US TELCO SPRINT NEXTEL". Comcast Finance. Retrieved August 3, 2007. 
  10. ^ Dave Hayes (July 17, 2008). "SK Telecom confirms it has no plans to buy Sprint". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  11. ^ Ryan Block (June 20, 2008). "Helio's flame going out: stores to shutter, customers heading to Virgin?". The Kansas City Star. 
  12. ^ "Citi: Mobile Venture Will Go Well Beyond Basics." American Banker. March 7, 2008.
  13. ^ "SK Telecom Growing New Seeds in Silicon Valley". SK Holdings. March 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Portfolio". SK Telecom Americas Innopartners. 
  15. ^ "Inspiring everyone on the planet". SK Planet. 
  16. ^ SK플래닛, 앱스토어 '킵(qiip)'으로 일본시장 공략 (in Korean)
  17. ^ 11st Introduction
  18. ^ SK Planet Set to Change the Dynamics of Offline Commerce Market Valued at KRW 230 Trillion
  19. ^ SKT Acquires iriver, from the Maeil Business Newspaper

External links[edit]