Three Korean operators launch 5G networks

Three major mobile operators have simultaneously launched commercial 5G services in South Korea, making it the second country in the world – after the US – to have next-generation networks.

It had been thought that SK Telecom, Korea Telecom (KT) and LG Uplus would launch at the same time in March 2019 to coincide with the launch of the first compatible handsets.

However, it appears as though the global race to 5G has encouraged all three to bring the date forward. Services are currently limited to enterprise customers in parts of major cities but coverage is expected to expand to the rest of the country.

South Korea 5G

SK Telecom’s network covers a few cities including the main parts of the capital Seoul, with the first call made on the network by CEO Park Jung-Ho using a Samsung-manufactured smartphone prototype.

Meanwhile LG Uplus has installed 4,100 base stations – the most of any Korean operator -and plans to reach 7,000 by the end of the year. KT has coverage in Seoul and six other metropolitan areas – including the island of Jeju – and plans to reach 24 cities.

Verizon in the US launched the world’s first commercial 5G service in October this year, offering Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband to parts of the US, while more are expected to come online in 2019.

This includes in the UK where EE, Three and Vodafone have all confirmed at least some details of their 5G rollouts. In addition to enhanced mobile broadband and FWA broadband, 5G’s greater capacity and ultra-low latency is expected to power a range of new industrial applications.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.