SK Telecom exits Mongolian market

15 February 2011 |


South Korean mobile operator SK Telecom has exited the Mongolian mobile services market after selling its 29.3% stake in regional mobile carrier, Skytel.

The stake was sold to existing Mongolian shareholders including Sun Clay Group and Global Com for approximately $23 million (KRW 25.8 billion), representing a huge return on its original cash investment in the company in 2002 of approximately $481,000. Skytel is Mongolia’s second largest mobile operator and according to statistics from BuddeComm had 381,260 subscribers in June 2009.

Mongolia has a population of approximately three million served by four mobile operators and Marc Einstein from analyst firm Frost & Sullivan points to the saturation of the Mongolian mobile market as one of the probable factors behind SK Telecom’s move.

Einstein also suggests that SK Telecom’s exit from the Mongolian market could be attributed to its focus on CDMA technology rather than GSM. “All the ventures they went into in the US, Vietnam and China were with CDMA, when that is only 10% of the current user base. GSM always does better in emerging markets.”

Over the last three years, SK Telecom has sold off its stakes in various companies, including discontinuing its investments in Vietnamese operator S Fone, selling its stakes in China Unicom back to the company and selling the mobile unit Helio to Virgin Mobile USA.

The company, however, plans to launch commercial LTE services in the South Korean capital of Seoul by July of this year, before going onto expand the service to the Seoul metropolitan area and six other major cities across the nation by 2012.