Stage X to launch 5G network in Korea next year: Report

Stage X said it will deploy a total of 6,000 5G base stations nationwide

South Korean company Stage X, which has been awarded spectrum that will enable it to be the nation’s fourth mobile carrier, plans to launch nationwide mobile network services in the first half of 2025, Korean press reported.

Stage X CEO Seo Sang-wong said that the company will be investing 612.8 billion won ($462 million) to deploy its 28 GHz 5G network across South Korea. The telco plans to build 6,000 base stations, which is the mandated installation standard for the 28 GHz frequency network.

“We will begin building infrastructure this year and aim to launch nationwide network services in the first half of 2025,” Sang-won said during a recent press conference. “In addition to establishing 28 GHz base stations, we will also secure additional mid-low band frequencies to build our own network,” the executive added.

The executive also noted that Stage X also aims to virtualize the entire core network to secure cost-effectiveness. The newcomer operator added that it will actively use artificial intelligence (AI) technology in network quality management and service operation with the aim of reducing operating costs.

The executive also said Stage X will provide services via Wi-Fi with the 28 GHz frequency. It plans to build 28 GHz-based Wi-Fi in densely populated facilities, including concert halls, hospitals, schools and airports.

“Currently, there are no devices in Korea that support the 28 GHz frequency, but Apple already supports devices in that frequency band, and Samsung Electronics supports the full 28GHz frequency for its Galaxy flagship models. We will actively communicate with the [Korean] government to enable the use of 28GHz-supporting smartphones that are already launched in the United States in Korea,” the executive said.

Stage X is a consortium that is integrated by Stage Five, a communications affiliate of tech giant Kakao Corp. and other unidentified companies, and recently secured a license to operate in the 28 GHz band in an auction carried out by the Korean government.

The new operator will be the only service provider in the 28 GHz band during an initial three-year period in order to be able to secure its market position, according to previous reports.

Local carriers SK Telecom, LG Uplus and KT had secured frequencies in the 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands in 2018, under the condition that they each deploy 22,500 and 15,000 radio stations for each spectrum band. The government noted that telcos had fulfilled with the stipulated number of radio stations for the 3.5 GHz spectrum band but had failed to fulfill with the requirements for the 28 GHz band.

Last year, the Korean government had effectively cancelled the spectrum licenses in the 28 GHz band that had been previously allocated to local operators for 5G deployments, due to the lack of investment and missed rollout requirements.

As a response to this insufficient investment, the South Korean government has taken steps to introduce a new operator to boost competition in the domestic mobile market.

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