More than 792,000 5G subscribers added last month in Korea: Report

Total 5G subs in Korea nearing 14 million

South Korea ended February with 13.66 million subscribers in the 5G segment after a net addition of 792,118 subscribers during the month, local news agency Yonhap reported, citing data from the Ministry of Science and ICT.

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

The report noted that the big boost in 5G subscriptions during the first two months of the year was chiefly due to the popularity of Samsung Electronics’ latest flagship Galaxy S21 smartphones, which already surpassed 1 million units in domestic sales last week.

The report also noted that the country’s three carriers are seeking a faster adoption of 5G across the country and have announced more affordable 5G plans to promote the adoption of the technology.

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.

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.

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 have 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.

Kim Jin-wook, a lawyer at law firm Joowon, which is spearheading the legal action, claimed the quality of 5G services doesn’t meet expectations, with slower than advertised data rates and coverage limited to major cities despite the service costing more than LTE plans.

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