GSMA THRIVE CHINA 2020: KT CEO Ku Hyeon-mo (pictured) urged operators to shift their focus to the vast and diversified B2B sector to grow revenue, arguing the upside for 5G is limited if it is merely a replacement for 4G services.

He noted South Korean operators’ 5G efforts so far focused on the consumer market, with some associated improvements in profit and ARPU. But he believes this growth will stall if operators depend only on consumers because LTE and 5G offerings are too similar to differentiate the value.

The B2B market offers a huge opportunity, with 5G offering improvements in productivity which can spur digital transformation of industries. Business customers are also less price sensitive than consumers, and operators are likely to face less direct competition in the sector.

He noted many B2B markets face lighter regulation than telecoms, which likely means less pressure on prices.

“In the end, we need to create a vision in the B2B sector…5G has a potential for more added value than a simple replacement”.

The executive acknowledged there are many challenges, as operators must fully understand the specific requirements of various industries, which requires accrual of domain knowledge.

KT developed more than 150 corporate applications for 90 business units. It is targetting the media and entertainment sector with a video data management platform and the healthcare industry with a 5G-based digital pathology system.

Ku said Korean operators expect 5G subscribers to exceed 16 million by the year-end, but conceded progress may be slowed by Covid-19 (coronavirus).