South Korea ended 2020 with 11.85 million 5G subscribers, local news agency Yonhap reported, citing data from the Ministry of Science and ICT.
In December 2020, Korean operators added approximately 900,000 5G subscribers.
The country’s current 5G base accounted for 16.8% of the total 70.5 million mobile network subscriptions in the country at end-December.
The country’s three operators launched 5G technology in April 2019, and 5G networks are available mostly in large cities.
The country’s migration to the 5G network is expected to accelerate further with the launches of Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy S21 models and cheaper data plans from mobile carriers sold through online retail channels.
However, a high number of mobile users in Korea have at times complained about the quality of 5G services, according to press reports. Users say that the 5G services offered by the country’s three carriers have poor quality, slow connections and lack applications that use the new technology.
A recent ministry report found that the country’s 5G networks had an average 5G download speed reaching 690.47 megabits per second (Mbps), just over four times faster than current 4G LTE speeds.
South Korean telecom operators currently support non-standalone 5G, which uses previous 4G LTE network.
Local mobile carriers SK Telecom, KT Corp. and LG Uplus are currently preparing to commercialize new technology, such as standalone versions of the 5G networks and millimeter wave 5G.
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.
In July of 2020 , Korean mobile operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus agreed to invest a total of KRW 25.7 trillion ($22 billion) through 2022 to boost 5G infrastructure across the country.
This investment primarily focuses 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.
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