South Korea ends February with almost 203,000 5G base stations: Report

Telcos in South Korea area currently providing 5G services via NonStandalone networks

Korean mobile operators have deployed a total of 202,903 5G base stations as of the end of February, Korean press reported, citing figures from the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT.

This figure is equivalent to 23% of total 4G LTE base stations installed in South Korea, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the number of domestic 5G subscribers reached 21.57 million at the end of last month, a number equivalent to half of the number of LTE subscribers, which had amounted to 48.02 million.

However, the amount of monthly data usage by 5G subscribers is estimated at about 544,000 terabyte, which is two times higher than 274,000 terabyte for LTE data usage, according to the report.

The investments carried out by local carriers SK Telecom, KT Corp and LG Uplus in network infrastructure totaled KRW8.20 trillion ($6.75 billion) last year, down from KRW8.28 trillion in 2020. Their investment in infrastructure declined for two consecutive years after reaching KRW9.6 trillion in 2019, when 5G services were launched.

Nearly 30% of mobile subscriptions in South Korea were on 5G networks at the end of last year, according to previous reports.

South Korea was the first country to launch commercial 5G networks in April 2019 and currently has 5G coverage across its 85 cities.

South Korean telecom operators currently provide 5G services via NonStandalone 5G networks, which depend on previous 4G LTE networks.

In June 2018, the ICT ministry completed an auction for 5G frequencies in which local carriers SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus secured spectrum to launch 5G services in the Asian nation.

SK Telecom and KT each won 100 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz band while LG Uplus had obtained a bloc of 80 megahertz of spectrum.

In February, the government of South Korea has postponed an auction to award additional 5G spectrum as local mobile operators SK Telecom and KT have complained about the process.

In December, South Korea’s Science and ICT ministry had said it would open bidding for additional 5G networks in the 3.4-3.42 GHz spectrum, as requested by LG Uplus, the country’s smallest mobile operator.

However, SK Telecom and KT have complained about the ministry’s decision, as they claim that LG Uplus is at a relative advantage as the spectrum it had requested is closest to its current frequency and will cost considerably less for LG Uplus to utilize it.

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