The Asian government plans to award 5G spectrum licenses in June

South Korean mobile operators are expected to invest more than $9.36 billion in 5G network technology in 2018, Korean press reported citing industry sources.

According to the reports, the local Ministry of Science and ICT and the country’s three mobile carries – SK Telecom, KT Corp and LG U+ – have plans to start commercial operations in 2019 and build nationwide infrastructure by 2020.

The reports also highlighted that investments for the development of 4G LTE networks has reached $5.6 billion in 2010, a year before the official commercialization, and added up to $7.49 billion in 2012, while investment in this technology amounted to around $4.68 billion per year since 2015.

The Korean government has recently announced plans to award 5G spectrum in June this year. The Ministry of Science and ICT said 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum will be auctioned.

Last month, Korean telecom operator SK Telecom announced its self-developed 5G fronthaul technology had been adopted as a Korean national standard by the country’s Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA).

SK Telecom developed the fronthaul specification as an open standard to help small and mid-sized vendors and startups enter the market, in contrast to LTE fronthaul where major vendors use their own specifications.

SK Telecom also recently announced that it has developed new relay technologies for 5G networks after its six-months-long collaboration with local partners. The telco said this collaboration is a big step towards the creation of a 5G ecosystem in Korea.

South Korea aims to complete the deployment of a commercial 5G mobile network in the second half of 2019, Heo Won-seok, director of ICT and Broadcasting Technology Policy at South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, said last year in a conference in Tokyo, Japan.

The official said that the Korean government estimates that 5G will have a penetration rate of nearly 5% in Korea in 2020, the year it is expected to be launch in several markets worldwide. The official also said that subscribers will represent 30% of total mobile subscribers in South Korea in 2021, 50% in 2020 and 90% in 2026.

Korean telcos are currently focusing on 5G trials in order to pave the way for the launch of commercial 5G offerings. In November 2017, local operator LG U+ signed a partnership with Chinese vendor Huawei to complete a large-scale 5G network test in a pre-commercial environment in Gangnam District, Seoul. The vendor said this network consists of both 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz base stations. The test also helped to successfully verify new technologies including IPTV 4K Video and many other future-proof commercial 5G services. High-speed mobility, dual connectivity, and inter-cell handovers were also validated.

The test results returned average data rates of 1 Gbps over the low band and more than 5 Gbps for dual connectivity over high and low bands. A peak data rate of 20 Gbps and an average data rate of more than 5 Gbps were achieved through dual connectivity over 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz. During the test, a 5G tour bus delivered 5G-based IPTV 4K, and a VR drone was demonstrated in the ‘5G for All’ experience room at the LG U+ headquarters, which required data rates ranging from 20 Mbps to 100 Mbps.

In October 2017, SK Telecom carried out a successful demonstration of network communications in a real-world setting. SK Telecom used an in-building relay repeater operating in both 28 GHz and 3.5 GHz spectrum bands in the trial network at the company’s Bundang office, in Seoul.

SK Telecom and KT plan to show off their 5G network at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games to be held in South Korea.

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