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South Korea reaches 6.34 million 5G subscribers

The number of 5G subscribers in South Korea reached 6.34 million at the end of April, a year after local carriers had commercially launched this technology, Korean press reported, citing government data.

This figure represents an increase of 7.8% compared to the previous month, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Science and ICT.

SK Telecom’s 5G customers accounted for 45% of total 5G subscribers, followed by KT with 30.3% and LG Uplus with 24.7%, the ministry said.

This figures also show that 5G subscribers currently represent nearly 10% of the country’s overall mobile base.

The Korean government recently said that local operators had already deployed a total of 115,000 5G base stations across the country.

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus have been heavily investing to expand 5G services in South Korea.

In March, 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.

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, previously said during a conference call with investors.

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.

Korean telcos also expect to commercialize an ultrafast mmWave 5G network this year, according to recent press 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.

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.

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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