South Korea reaches 8.65 million 5G subscribers at end-August

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South Korea reached 8.65 million subscribers in the 5G segment, according to data released by the Ministry of Science and ICT.

The number of 5G subscribers represents an increase of 10.2% compared to the previous month, resulting in the fastest monthly gain since August of last year.

Korean operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus launched commercial 5G services in the country in April last year.

According to Korean press reports, the boost in 5G subscribers could be chiefly due to the release of Samsung Electronics’ latest flagship Galaxy Note 20, which supports 5G connectivity.

According to the latest available government data, SK Telecom ended August with 3.98 million 5G subscribers, followed by KT, with 2.63 million and LG Uplus, with 2.04 million.

The country’s three telcos are expected to achieve their target of 10 million 5G users by the end of 2020, as a series of new 5G smartphones are scheduled to hit the market before the end of the year.

However, despite being one of the most advanced markets in terms of 5G deployments, 5G networks in South Korea are currently showing poorer results than initially expected, with their download speeds and connection far lower than what telecom operators have initially claimed, Korean press reported, citing an assessment report carried out by the government.

5G subscribers have been complaining of the network’s lower-than-expected speed and unstable connectivity.

The average download speed on 5G networks run by the country’s three mobile carriers — SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus,  stood at 656.6 Mbps, just four times faster than the average 4G LTE speed of 158.5 Mbps, according to the report compiled by Korea’s ICT ministry.

According to a report by local newspaper Korea Herald, a total of 562,656 5G customers have downgraded their mobile plans to 4G.  According to the report by Hong Jung-min, a lawmaker who belongs to the Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee at the National Assembly, many 5G subscribers have gone back to 4G services because the new network system failed to offer quality connection and coverage.

In July, Korean mobile operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus agreed to invest a total of KRW 25.7 trillion ($22.2 billion) 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.

Korean carriers are also paving the way to offer 5G via standalone networks. LG Uplus previously said it had completed tests of core technologies supporting voice service running on a standalone (SA) 5G network as the carrier expects to launch 5G based on SA architecture later this year.

Rival operators SK Telecom and KT have also carried out tests of 5G SA networks and aim to launch this technology during the second half of this year, according to previous reports.

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