KT will use 28 GHz spectrum for urban hot spots and 3.5 GHz band for urban and rural areas.

South Korean telecom operator KT Corp. has confirmed plans to launch its commercial 5G network by March 2019, Korean press reported. Oh Seong-mok, president of KT’s network business division, said that the firm’s 5G commercial offering will provide nationwide coverage.

The operator’s 5G rollout will not be based on the Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) currently being pushed forward by U.S telco Verizon, the executive said. The country’s second largest telco has recently completed a 5G trial during the Winter Olympics Games, which took place in the city of PyeongChang February 9-25.

During the PyeongChang Games, KT Corp. provided five 5G-driven visual technologies — sync view, interactive time slice, 360-degree virtual reality live broadcasting, omni-point view and a 5G connected bus.

During a keynote presentation at Qualcomm’s 4G/5G Summit, which took place in Hong Kong in October 2017, KT’s SVP of Network Strategy YongGyoo Lee, said that the telco’s 5G deployment plans initially stipulate the use of 28 GHz spectrum for urban hot spots and 3.5 GHz band for urban and rural areas. Through the utilization of these frequencies, KT will be in a position to cover a wide range of use cases such as smart cities, 4K/8K cameras, remote medical services, drones, smart factories and public safety, the executive said.

One of the challenges for the initial 5G deployments will be handset availability. The first mobile devices supporting 5G technology are expected to be commercially available by the end of this year and the first half of 2019.

South Korean mobile operators are expected to invest more than $9.36 billion in 5G network technology in 2018, according to recent Korean press reports.

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 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.

Korean mobile carriers 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.

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