Korean government aims to foster 5G competition via MVNOs: Report

South Korea’s ICT ministry said it aims to boost competition in the domestic 5G market through the release of affordable mobile data plans from mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), local news agency Yonhap reported.

According to the report, the country’s ICT ministry said that a total of 10 MVNOs in Korea, including Sejong Telecom, will release new 5G plans starting this month that provide up to 30 gigabytes of data for around 40,000 won ($35).

The report stated that the country’s three main telecom operators — SK Telecom Co., KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. — do not currently offer plans at a similar price for the same amount of data.

The ICT ministry had previously implemented changes in administrative rules so that MVNOs can independently offer 5G data plans. The government said that this move will foster competition in the 5G market, which is dominated by these three carriers.

As of February, 5G subscriptions to MVNOs stood at around 7,000. The total number of MVNO users in Korea reached 9.27 million in February, of which 6.6 million were subscribed to 4G networks.

South Korea ended February with 13.66 million subscribers in the 5G segment after a net addition of 792,118 subscribers during the month, according to the latest available data from the Ministry of Science and ICT.

SK Telecom had the largest number of 5G subscribers at 6.35 million, followed by KT at 4.16 million and LG Uplus at 3.15 million.

South Korean telecom operators currently provide 5G services via non-standalone 5G networks, which depend on previous 4G LTE networks. The country’s three operators launched 5G technology in April 2019, and 5G networks are available mostly in large cities.

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus are currently preparing to commercialize new technology, such as Standalone versions of the 5G networks and millimeter-wave 5G.

Despite the rapid progress in 5G deployments, subscribers have been criticizing the poor quality of 5G services. Nearly 1,000 5G smartphone users in South Korea recently expressed interest in taking legal action against the country’s three major telecom operators due to the alleged poor quality of the service.

The group plans to file a class action lawsuit in May after adding more customers to the complaint. The group is seeking at least KRW1 million ($885) in compensation per subscriber from the three mobile operators.

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