5G Frequency Spectrum in South Korea

What frequency bands have been allocated to 5G in South Korea?

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- everything RF

Jul 22, 2020

South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT held the spectrum auction for 5G in June, 2018. It was one of the world’s first 5G auctions and the country’s mobile operators acquired 280 MHz of mid-band (n78) and 2400 MHz of mmWave (n257) frequencies.

5G frequency bands in South Korea

BandFrequencyAuction StatusOperator
n783.42 - 3.5 GHzAuctioned (2018)LG Uplus
n783.5 - 3.6 GHzAuctioned (2018)KT
n783.6 - 3.7 GHzAuctioned (2018)SKT
n25726.5 - 27.3 GHzAuctioned (2018)KT
n25727.3 - 28.1 GHzAuctioned (2018)LG Uplus
n25728.1 - 28.9 GHzAuctioned (2018)SKT

South Korea raised $3.3 billion from the 5G spectrum auction. 5G services are provided by three telecom companies: LG Uplus, SK Telecom and KT. As per the auction, they can use the sub-6 GHz frequencies for the next 10 years and mmWave frequencies for the next 5 years.

By the end of January 2020, 5G carried approximately 20% of South Korea’s total mobile traffic. Ministry of Science and ICT forecast that 30% of the country will have access to 5G services by the end of 2020 and 90% coverage by the year 2026.

SK Telecom and LG Uplus have successfully tested Standalone (SA) 5G networks and are expected to launch 5G based on SA architecture in the second half of 2020.

Bloomberg tested the 5G service quality in Seoul in June 2020 and found that KT Corp, the No. 2 South Korean carrier, has improved 5G service since the commercial debut in April 2019, though it still lacks the high-frequency airwaves necessary to reach top download speeds in the range of 20 Gbps. KT’s average 5G data speed ranges between 800 Mbps to 1 Gbps.

SK Telecom, the country’s largest carrier, achieves a download speed of 1.5 Gbps inside its headquarters, which drops to 1 Gbps in the same building’s lobby.