Korean carrier KT has announced plans to build 5G test facilities nationwide as part of the government’s initiative to support companies developing new services using 5G technology, Korean press reported.
The KRW 28.5 billion (US$24.2 million) project is expected to be completed by 2023 and aims to provide small and medium-sized firms access to research versions of the 5G network to test new services, including connected vehicles, drones and smart factories.
KT said that the testing sites will be established at four locations across the country, including Pangyo, south of Seoul, and the central city of Daejeon.
The carrier also said it targets to install 5G at the facilities on the 3.5 GHz and the 28 GHz bands with multi-access edge computing, mirroring its nationwide commercial 5G network. The core node and base stations at these four sites are linked with the Korea Advanced Research Network.
In July, KT announced the creation of a task force as part of a KRW100 trillion government project to boost the Korean economy following the COVID-19 pandemic by creating new jobs and accelerating industrial digitalization.
KT said more than 200 employees will develop plans on how its AI, 5G, cloud, networking and R&D units will support the New Deal scheme, which aims to create 550,000 jobs this year.
The country’s three operators launched 5G technology in April 2019, and 5G networks are available mostly in large cities. The government previously said that the carriers had already deployed over 115,000 5G base stations.
South Korea’s 5G subscribers reached 7.86 million in July, up 487,190 from the previous month, accounting for 11.3% of the country’s 69.8 million mobile subscriptions.
In July, Korean mobile operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus agreed to invest a total of KRW 25.7 trillion through 2022 to boost 5G infrastructure across the country.
This investment will primarily focus on enhancing 5G quality in Seoul and six other metropolitan cities. The investment plan also stipulates the deployment of 5G in 2,000 multi-purpose facilities, on Seoul Metro lines 2 and 9 and along major highways. In 2021, the carriers committed to expand 5G connectivity to an additional 85 districts, including 4,000 multi-purpose facilities, subways and all train stations, as well as 20 additional highways.
Korea’s main telecom operators expect to commercialize an ultrafast mmWave 5G network this year, according to previous reports.
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 reports.
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.