SEOUL, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) -- The growth of smartphone subscription in South Korea sharply decelerated this year, raising concerns that the country's mobile phone sector is increasingly facing saturation, data showed Sunday.
According to the data compiled by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the country's mobile operator attracted an average 2.54 million smartphone subscribers in every quarter of last year.
But the comparable figure for the first three quarters of this year was some 1.35 million, the data showed.
South Korea had seen a steady rise in the number of smartphone subscribers since the launch of the iPhone by Apple Inc. in November 2009.
The growth pace accelerated as Samsung Electronics Co. introduced its Galaxy smartphone line-up in June 2010 and a faster mobile network called the long-term evolution (LTE) was introduced in July 2011.
As of August this year, the country's smartphone users reached 36.32 million, accounting for 67.1 percent of total mobile-phone subscriptions.
Growth in the South Korean market for smartphones is expected to turn negative this year due to market saturation, a report showed earlier.
According to the report compiled by Strategy Analytics, the local market for smartphones is expected to decline 14 percent to around 26.3 million units for the year, from last year's 30.7 million units.
South Korea had the highest level of smartphone ownership in the world last year, backed by rising demand for the device and faster Internet networks, earlier data showed.
According to data compiled by Strategy Analytics, 67.6 percent of mobile consumers in the country had smartphones last year, the highest rate in the world. The global average was 14.8 percent.
Strategy Analytics forecast that South Korea's smartphone penetration rate would reach 79.5 percent this year, topping Singapore's expected rate of 66.5 percent and Hong Kong's 63.6 percent.
In 2017, it forecast South Korea's smartphone ownership will reach 88.9 percent.
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