South Korea operator SK Telecom (SKT) highlighted steps to drive top-line growth in its core telecoms business, which is slowing as 5G penetration reaches saturation, by launching new pricing options and differentiated services.

Mobile service revenue in Q1 was broadly flat at KRW2.65 trillion ($1.9 billion), with ARPU falling 2.9 per cent to KRW29,239. The decline was the seventh consecutive quarterly drop: since Q2 2022, ARPU is down 4.6 per cent. 

The operator added 1.8 million 5G subscribers from a year earlier to end-March with 15.9 million, accounting for half of its mobile users. Its base rose 3.6 per cent to 31.7 million. The number of LTE subs dropped by 8.9 million to 6.9 million.

In its earnings call, CFO Kim Yang-seob outlined plans to restart growth and improve user experience by expanding AI services, highlighting the features of its offering for iOS and Android handsets.

In March, the company unveiled new price plans aimed at retaining price-sensitive users and targeting premium customers, said Kim Ji-hyung, head of the Integrated Marketing Strategy Office. It also restructured roaming plans after the pandemic, which led to an increase in revenue.

The outlook for roaming is bright as outbound travel is forecast to return to the 2019 level, with the launch of family roaming plans expected to drive continued growth, he said.

SKT also is enhancing operational efficiency through AI advances.

Net profit grew 19.6 per cent to KRW362 billion, boosted by higher non-operating income from investments. Consolidated revenue rose 2.3 per cent to KRW4.48 trillion.

Capex was up 50 per cent in the quarter to KRW317 billion. The total outlay in 2023 was KRW2.7 trillion.

The operator’s pay-TV business was flat at KRW476 billion, while fixed-line revenue increased 4.4 per cent KRW276 billion. Enterprise sales grew 9 per cent to KRW415.4 billion, with contributions from data centre and cloud units up 26 per cent and 39 per cent to KRW58.3 billion and KRW35 billion, respectively.