SpaceX’s Starlink satellite communication service is set to launch domestic operations, though achieving a significant market share in the highly competitive South Korean telecommunications landscape is unlikely to be straightforward. However, the venture could stimulate growth in the country’s satellite communication industry and related sectors.
Industry sources revealed that Starlink Korea, a limited liability company established by SpaceX for its Starlink business, plans to initiate domestic satellite communication services in Q2. The firm is currently navigating legal procedures, such as radio wave usage applications and registering key telecommunication operators. It is also reportedly seeking to establish a domestic distribution network by collaborating with SK Telecom, KT, and LG U+.
Given South Korea’s near-100% wired and wireless coverage, excellent communication quality, and relatively low costs, few insiders expect Starlink Korea to make significant headway in the country’s telecommunications market. However, the company’s entry is anticipated to boost the satellite communication industry, which is forecasted to grow in importance, with the 5G Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) market projected to expand from $4.9bn in 2023 to $8.8bn in 2026, according to market research firm Trend Force.
Leading tech giants such as Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung Electronics are accelerating the development of 5G NTN chipsets, while satellite communication operators are also on the rise. As of March, SpaceX has launched 4,002 satellites, with OneWeb and Telsen following suit. Domestic satellite-related companies such as Hanwha Aerospace, Satrec I, AP Satellite, and Intelliian Technologies could also benefit from the industry’s expansion.
Although Hanwha Aerospace’s subsidiary Satrec I recorded an operating loss last year, the company experienced an increase in sales and continued paying dividends. AP Satellite is expanding its operations, recently securing a contract worth KRW 6.9bn ($ 5.2mn) with Comtech Mobile Datacom, while Intelliantech, a satellite communication service company focusing on maritime operations, is also witnessing impressive growth.
The entry of Starlink into the South Korean market presents a challenge for established companies, but the sector’s continued expansion provides an opportunity for further growth and innovation.