South Korea's largest mobile operator therefore remains ahead of rival KT Corp, which reported just over 5 million 5G subscribers after the April-June period.
SKT said the 5G subscriber growth, as well as "customer-oriented products" and cost stabilization, were responsible for the strong rise in mobile network operating income by 21.7% to 328.4 billion won (US$283 million). Mobile services revenue rose by 2.7% to just over 3 trillion won ($2.58 billion).
SKT indicated that 2021 capex will remain at a similar level to last year. SKT and SK Broadband spent 849.2 billion won ($733 million) in capex in the second quarter, representing 285.3% growth compared to the first quarter.
SKT said total consolidated revenue and operating income increased by 4.7% and 10.8% year on year respectively, backed by the growth of its mobile and new ICT businesses. Q2 revenue amounted to 4.818 trillion won ($4.31 billion) and operating income reached 396.6 billion won ($342 million).
Total net income increased 84% to 795.7 billion won ($687 million), attributed to gains from chip-making affiliate SK Hynix and 5G subscriber growth. SKT is pursuing a diversification strategy, with the aim of developing areas with high growth potential alongside its core 5G business.
Doing the splits
SKT also signaled its intention to press ahead with previously announced plans to split its business into two by creating a new investment-focused company.
SKT announced in June that it will separate its business into an operating entity – focusing on its existing businesses including telecoms, artificial intelligence and digital infrastructure – and a new investment entity called SKT Investment for semiconductor and ICT industries. The plan will be confirmed at its shareholders' meeting on October 12.
SKT Investment aims to increase its net asset value from 26 trillion won ($22.4 billion) to 75 trillion won ($64.7 billion) by 2025, through investments in semiconductors, platforms and global ICT.
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The surviving SK Telecom will focus on its traditional mobile network business as well as a new subscription service that is set to be unveiled later this month, and which aims to have 35 million subscribers by 2025, according to Yonhap.
Other highlights of the second quarter include the launch of Ifland, described as a metaverse (collective virtual shared space) that allows rooms to be set up with avatars in diverse virtual spaces.
SKT said it aims to position Ifland "as a major metaverse platform in the 5G era" with 800 types of avatars and enhanced social networking features.
The operator also hailed growth in its IPTV business, with 138,000 net adds in Q2 resulting in 8.81 million pay-TV subscribers at the end of June. SKT intends to produce more original content under Studio Wavve and flagged an exclusive distribution agreement with HBO for one year.