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Korean telcos aim to launch mmWave 5G network in 2020

Korea’s main telecom operators expect to commercialize an ultrafast mmWave 5G network this year, The Korea Herald reported, citing industry sources.

According to the report, the mmWave 5G service will be initially available for the business-to-business segment. Operators have not yet finalized investment plans for the business-to-consumer sector, as the cost of building additional infrastructure still represents a major issue, according to the report.

Due to the high level of capital expenditures needed, the launch of the mmWave 5G network for personal smart devices is likely to start next year or in 2022, the report said.

“We are currently planning on bringing a 28 GHz-band 5G network for B2B areas this year. But in terms of B2C, the company is still reviewing various options,” an SK Telecom official was quoted as saying.

Local operators are planning to introduce the new 5G technology while expanding the existing 5G infrastructure in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band.

Korean vendor Samsung Electronics announced that it has tested a high-frequency 5G network station, confirming that its current infrastructure allows smart devices to download data at 8.5 Gbps speed.

“Stations for the mmWave 5G network will be installed in areas that handle high loads of data traffic,” adding that the initial focus will be on the B2B sector, most likely in smart factories,” an industry source said.

In June 2018, South Korea completed a tender process through which it awarded spectrum in both the 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands. The government made available a total of 280 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band and 2,400 megahertz in the 28 GHz band. The spectrum was divided into 28 blocks and 24 blocks.

Participant operators SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus had a 10-block cap per spectrum band. The telcos paid a total of 3.6183 trillion won ($3.3 billion) for the spectrum, 340 billion won higher than the starting price of 3.3 trillion won.

The 3.5 GHz band licenses cover a ten-year period and the 28 GHz band licenses a five-year term.

South Korea claimed to be the first country in the world to launch full 5G commercial services on April 3, 2019. As of the end of January, the three operators had deployed approximately 92,000 5G base station across the country.

Last month, South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT said that the country’s three major telecom carriers, SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus, have agreed to invest KRW 4 trillion ($3.4 billion) in their 5G networks during the first half of this year.

Operators will heavily invest to install additional 5G equipment with the aim of expanding the coverage of current 5G networks across the country.

The initial new investment had been initially set at KRW 2.7 trillion, but has been expanded to KRW 4 trillion. The additional investment will be used to deploy 5G infrastructure in subways, railroads, department stores and universities, according to the report.

―RCR Wireless News

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