South Korea ends July with 25.1 million 5G subscribers

5G accounted for 33.3% of all mobile subscriptions in South Korea in July

South Korea ended July with 25.1 million subscribers in the 5G segment, local press reported, citing data from the Ministry of Science and ICT.

Local carriers in South Korea had initially launched 5G services three years and three months ago.

5G accounted for 33.3% of all mobile subscriptions in the country. However, the technology accounted for 72.4% of the overall online traffic.

Meanwhile, 4G LTE accounted for 62.5% of all mobile subscriptions in South Korea and 27.6% in terms of overall online traffic.

The ministry also reported that 5G subscribers used an average of 27.9 GB of traffic in July, while LTE subscribers used 8.4 GB.

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

Korean mobile operators have deployed a total of 202,903 5G base stations as of the end of February, according to previous reports. This figure is equivalent to 23% of total 4G LTE base stations installed in South Korea.

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 July, LG Uplus secured an additional 20 megahertz of spectrum to use for 5G. The Ministry of Science and ICT had said it would allocate the 3.4-3.42 GHz frequency band to LG Uplus, in addition to the 3.42 to 3.5 GHz spectrum that the telecom company bought in 2018.

LG Uplus had asked the Korean government last July for an additional 20 megahertz of spectrum to boost its 5G offerings.

In December of 2021, the country’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, which is the country’s smallest mobile operator.

However, SK Telecom and KT complained about the ministry’s decision. They said that LG Uplus was at a relative advantage in utilizing that spectrum because it is closest to the carrier’s current frequencies, so it will cost considerably less for LG Uplus to utilize it.

SK Telecom and KT did not bid in this latest spectrum auction because the 3.4-3.42 GHz band was adjacent to the 3.42-3.5 GHz band that LG Uplus already had. In order to use that spectrum range, SK Telecom and KT would have to put more effort and expense into aggregating separate frequency blocks.

According to a previous report by the GSMA, 5G connections accounted for 33% of total mobile connections in South Korea last year, while this technology will represent 73% of total connections in 2025.

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