The nationwide commercial launch, initially scheduled for this month will be delayed due to the lack of 5G terminals

South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has decided to postpone the commercial launch of nationwide 5G commercial services by local carriers, which was expected to occur by the end of March.

“Commercialization of 5G is possible when various factors such as network, smartphones and service are ready,” the Ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry did not refer to a new date for the commercial launch but highlighted that it is coordinating with local operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus, along with smartphone makers Samsung and LG Electronics on the matter.

Industry sources said that the launch of 5G devices and trials currently being carried out by operators took more time than what was initially expected, local news agency Yonhap News said.

According to the report, Samsung Electronics is expected to launch its 5G version of the Galaxy S10 in April, the sources said.

“The Galaxy S10 5G is already available for exhibitions and giving tryouts to consumers, but that is different from products that will hit the shelves at a price in the real market,” a Samsung Electronics official reportedly said. “It is difficult to release the general retail version of the Galaxy S10 5G at the end of March when considering the verification of product completeness.”

Meanwhile, LG Electronics was not able to sell its V50 ThinQ, which supports 5G technology, this month due to a delay in acquiring Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855 chipset, the news agency said, citing industry sources.

Another challenge for the commercial launch of 5G is that the government and telcos are still failing to agree on an appropriate 5G price plan for customers.

SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest operator, had submitted its 5G price plan proposal earlier this month but it was rejected by the Ministry.

The three Korean carriers had launched limited 5G commercial services in December 2018 as part of an agreement with the ICT ministry to launch simultaneously to avoid excessive competition. The three mobile carriers initially launched the 5G service in limited areas in Seoul

In June 2018, South Korea completed a tender process through which it awarded spectrum in both the 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands. The government made available a total of 280 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band and 2,400 megahertz in the 28 GHz band. The spectrum was divided into 28 blocks and 24 blocks.

Participant operators SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus had a 10-block cap per spectrum band. The telcos paid a total of 3.6183 trillion won ($3.3 billion) for the spectrum, 340 billion won higher than the starting price of 3.3 trillion won.

The 3.5 GHz band licenses cover a ten-year period and the 28 GHz band licenses a five-year term.

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