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South Korea reaches 5G penetration of nearly 10%

South Korea reached 5.77 million 5G subscribers at the beginning of April, Korean press reported, citing data from the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT.

According to this figure, Korea reached a 5G penetration of 9.67%, representing the highest penetration rate around the globe. In terms of the number of 5G subscribers, Korea ranked second in the world after China.

The Korean government also said that local carriers have already deployed a total of 115,000 5G base stations across the country.

Korean operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus have been heavily investing to expand 5G services in the country.

Last month, the Korean government said that the country’s three major telecom carriers had 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 announcement follows an agreement between South Korea’s Minister of Science and ICT Choi Ki-young and the management of the three domestic operators.

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.

SK Telecom, the country’s largest mobile operator, expects to reach 6-7 million subscribers in the 5G segment by the end of 2020, the company’s CFO, Poong-Young Yoon, recently said during a conference call with investors. At the end of last year, the operator had reached 2.08 million 5G subscribers, the executive said.

Rival operator KT ended 2019 with a total of 1.42 million subscribers in the 5G segment. The telco experienced a slowdown in the adoption of 5G subscriptions as net additions during the last quarter of the year amounted to 363,000, down from 636,000 in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, LG U+ reported that it closed last year with a total of 1.16 million 5G subscribers. The carrier’s 5G subscriber base increased by 33.1% during the fourth quarter of 2019.

South Korea claimed to be the first country in the world to launch full 5G commercial services on April 3, 2019.

The three Korean telcos launched limited 5G commercial services in December 2018 as part of an agreement with the ICT ministry to launch simultaneously to avoid excessive competition.

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.

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

―RCR Wireless News

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