Monday, December 23, 2013

Korean Patterns of mobile internet use

A short article in the Korea IT Times headlined "Koreans access mobile internet for about one and a half hour a day" caught my eye and led me to the original Korean language report (2013년 모바일인터넷이용실태조사, 2013 Survey on the Status of Mobile Internet Usage) on a new survey by the Korea Internet and Security Agency (KISA).  The report contains some interesting detail on recent trends, with implications for the shape of future networks.
Among the interesting findings of the survey are that users on average access the mobile internet 12.3 times per day and that 95.5 percent of users employ a smartphone to access the internet.  The small minority of people (4.2%) who still use 3G feature phones only access the mobile internet 3.5 times per day, and users of smart tablets access it only 3.3 times a day on average.  The dominant trend is toward usage of smartphones.
The data on locations where people most often use the mobile internet is summarized in the bar graph above (click to see a full size version of the graphic The translations from Korean of the title and bar labels are my own.)  While the most common location for using the mobile internet is the home, the chart underscores the highly mobile nature of Korean society today.  Communication while "on the move" in buses, trains, subways or cars ranks second, followed by parks and outdoor locations, then coffee shops, restaurants and shopping malls.  Incidentally, Seoul now has the highest density of coffee shops in the world, a trend that started with Starbucks entry into the local market in 1999.
Although usage of LTE is rapidly increasing, the single most common method of accessing the mobile internet in South Korea today is by a WiFi (referred to in the survey as Wireless LAN) connection, as shown in the second graphic.  Nearly three quarters of all respondents in the nationwide survey reported using WiFi.  WiBRO, the mobile WiMax standard developed by Korea and launched here before LTE became commercially available, is still being used, but constitutes a small percentage of overall usage. A breakdown WiFi users in the survey (click to see a full size version) shows that it is an extremely important means of access, led by home usage and use while traveling or commuting.

Not surprisingly, the survey also shows that people in the younger demographic groups make the heaviest use of mobile internet.  Overall the top three reasons (each cited by more than 90% or respondents) for using the mobile internet are 1) to obtain data or information including search, 2) for communication including instant messaging and 3) for leisure including music, television programs and games.  When it comes to television, of course, most smartphones in Korea are equipped to receive digital multimedia broadcasting which is advertiser-supported and free to the user.
Too conclude this data-packed post, I offer another chart, compiled from a recent Korean language report (무선테이터 트래픽 월별 통계, Mobile Data Traffic Monthly Statistics) published by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. (NOTE:  these data only measure WiFi traffic through the networks of the major mobile service providers and do not include home WiFi use).  It shows the exponential increase in data traffic currently underway with the spread of LTE service (the green line). Note that WiFi service by the three main mobile service providers, although at much lower levels of data, is also on the increase, while data flowing over the older, 3G networks is steadily decreasing.

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