The Korea Herald


Korea sees delays in ‘real 5G’ commercialization

By Song Su-hyun

Published : June 23, 2020 - 17:18

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Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (Samsung Electronics) Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (Samsung Electronics)

Despite a steady growth in the number of 5G mobile network subscribers who pay higher bills than with LTE services, South Korea’s plan for its full-fledged commercialization seems to be facing delays, according to industry sources Tuesday.

The so-called “real 5G,” which requires operation of the higher-frequency bandwidth of 28 gigahertzes to make data processing 20 times faster than the 4G LTE, is still not ready for commercialization, due to unexpected circumstances such as the lower-than-predicted demand, political issues and the latest COVID-19 outbreak.

Led by the Korean government, domestic mobile carriers are planning to start establishing 5G networks using the 28-GHz bandwidth as early as the end of this year, pushing back the original schedule to commercialize the service within the second half of the year.

If the 28-GHz bandwidth network is developed, the speed would increase by 20 gigabits per second, or 20 times faster than the current 4G LTE network.

That will be the real 5G speed, industry officials say.

Although Korea has proclaimed it is the world’s first 5G country, it has been relying on non-standalone services that utilize a mixture of 4G and 5G networks using the 3.5-GHz bandwidth which offers just three to four times faster sped than LTE.

“It is true that the profitability of 5G services in the business-to-business sector has not been favorable,” said an industry official. “Devices that support 28-GHz and standalone 5G aren’t ready yet.”

Since the network infrastructure for the real 5G network services hasn’t been completed and demand is lower than expected, new mobile devices scheduled to launch later this year might not be “real 5G models.”

Samsung Electronics says it does support standalone 5G on the Galaxy S20 series, as the industry’s first. But in Korea, the models can’t support the network service due to the absence of 28-GHz bandwidth.

There are rumors that the upcoming Galaxy Note 20 may support the 28-GHz bandwidth, considering the network environment.

“The Galaxy S20 series supporting standalone 5G will be viable for real 5G services with software updates, and it is not confirmed whether the Galaxy Note 20 will have the standalone support,” a Samsung official said.

According to data by the Ministry of Science and ICT, the number of 5G subscribers in Korea stood at 6.34 million as of April.

By Song Su-hyun (