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Korea Opens IPTV Floodgates

1:40 PM -- Korea's regulator, The Korean Communications Commission (KCC), is to allow the country's IPTV providers to access content from foreign companies and from domestic companies with more than 49 percent foreign investment.

Full IPTV licenses were issued in 2008, but the restriction has meant that the country's three IPTV service providers -– KT Corp. (Korea Telecom), LGDacom Corp. , and Hanaro Telecom Inc. , in which SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) holds the largest share -– have not been able to access content from foreign content owners.

Korea has a history of strict regulations over broadcast service ownership, and IPTV has challenged the market structure. It took more than three years of wrangling to establish the regulatory environment for IPTV, during which time the carriers were only able to provide VoD services.

The removal of this latest restriction is expected to provide further impetus to a fast-growing market. Despite the delay in getting IPTV to market, Korea has taken quickly to the services that launched earlier this year, and subscribers are expected to hit the 1 million mark in October. (See Koreans Tune In to IPTV.)

According to Korea's IT News, Korea Telecom leads the race with 342,000 subscribers, ahead of LG Dacom and Hanaro/SKT with 217,000 and 175,000 full IPTV customers respectively at the end of August, and subscribers are growing steadily month on month.

Given Korea's appetite for hi-tech services, IPTV is likely to develop quickly both in terms of subscribers and the complexity of the services offered. (See Broadband Apps to Drive Korea's Growth.)

— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

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