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SK, KT, LG Set To Choose 5G Equipment Suppliers

Korea’s top mobile carriers — SK Telecom (SKT), KT and LG Uplus — will announce their fifth-generation (5G) network equipment suppliers this month.

Each carrier is expected to choose two to four manufacturers to set up the 5G network infrastructure, but one of the issues is whether they will choose equipment from Chinese maker Huawei.

The mobile carriers secured their frequency bandwidth for 5G networks at the national frequency auction in June and are preparing to launch the world’s first commercial 5G services next March.

To open the next-generation network era, choosing equipment companies to build infrastructure is a prerequisite.

As the three mobile carriers are in the last phase of testing 5G network equipment from manufacturers, it is likely that they will soon announce their network equipment supplier possibly among Samsung Electronics, Nokia, Ericsson or Huawei.

Among them, Huawei is known to have industry-leading technology in the 5G frequency band of 3.5 gigahertz as it released the first 5G chipset this February. Its prices are also 20 percent to 30 percent less expensive than its competitors.

The 3.5 gigahertz band is adjacent to the 2 gigahertz LTE frequency range. The proximity enables mobile carriers to more easily build a nationwide network.

The world’s largest telecommunication equipment manufacturer can also produce 5G equipment at a competitive price, which is about 30 percent lower than those of its competitors.

However, many countries have been raising questions about Huawei’s security issues as China may force the company to spy on other countries.

While the U.S. has already barred Huawei and another Chinese maker ZTE from taking part in public sector IT business, Australia also banned the company from joining 5G network infrastructure business last month because of national security concerns.

Japan could be the next country to ban Huawei as media outlets there recently reported that the ban is under consideration at the highest levels of government due to security concerns.

Among the local mobile carriers, LG Uplus, the smallest player, is likely to use Huawei’s equipment.

“During the Mobile World Congress Shanghai in June, Kwon Youung-soo, chief operating officer of LG Corp, told reporters that LG Uplus would work with Huawei in building 5G network infrastructure,” an LG Uplus spokesman said, Sunday.

As vice chairman of LG Uplus at that time, Kwon said Huawei’s equipment “has the fastest and the best functions.”

Kwon reiterated his opinion about adapting Huawei’s equipment saying he hasn’t heard anything about changing plans to work with Huawei during last week’s shareholder meeting in Seoul.

While LG Uplus is expected to adopt equipment from Huawei, SKT and KT said nothing has been decided with them yet.

When building infrastructure for long-term evolution (LTE) networks, SKT and KT used equipment from Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia while LG Uplus used equipment from four suppliers including those three suppliers and Huawei. – The Korea Times

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