South Korea Aims to Launch a Commercial 5G Network by 2019

At the Global 5G Event, taking place this week in Tokyo, Japan,Heo Won-seok, Director of ICT and Broadcasting Technology Policy at South Korea’s Ministry of Science, South Korea is set to complete the deployment of its commercial 5G mobile network in the second half of 2019.

According to the officials, the Korean government expects 5G technology to have a penetration rate of nearly 5% in the country in 2020. Mr. Heo in his address also said that 5G subscribers will represent 30% of total mobile subscribers in South Korea in 2021, 50% in 2020 and 90% in 2026.

In order to pave the way for the commercial launch of 5G by local operators, the government has plans to allocate spectrum in two years, the officials said. They also claim that the commercial launch in South Korea will be the world’s first commercial 5G offering.

Operators aim to launch a 5G trial service for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will take place in the city of Pyeong Chang. The officials also highlighted that the local telecom operators will start building trial networks in this city as well as in Seoul. With the long-stated goal of having a trial 5G service running in 2018 for the Winter Olympics, the country’s operators will start to build a trial network in PyeongChang and Seoul in the second half of 2017.The government also aims to have autonomous buses in operation for the Winter Olympics Games.

South Korea’s second largest mobile operator KT had previously said it expects to complete the construction of a trial 5G network in certain areas of the country by September 2017, ahead of plans for a pilot service of this during the Winter Games. The operator plans to test the network for four to five months before it launches a trial 5G service in early February 2018.

In October 2016, the company had set up the network for a test run in the Gwanghwamun area in downtown Seoul, and claims to have seen data transmission speeds of up to 2.3 gigabits per second. KT is collaborating with vendors including ZTE and Ericsson for the deployment.

2020 has been set as the global target launch year for 5G services, however many are skeptical about this date, as the path to 5G seems very challenging. This announcement from South Korea provides some encouragement about launch of 5G services.