South Korean operators SK Telecom (SKT), KT and LG Uplus were tipped to switch on standalone (SA) 5G networks before the end of the year, after postponing launches mainly due to disruptions caused by Covid-19 (coronavirus) restrictions.
LG Uplus, the third-largest operator in the country by subscribers, completed testing of its commercial SA network, Business Korea reported. The operator had targeted a Q3 launch, with a source familiar with the operator’s plans telling Mobile World Live the upgrade would definitely go live before 2021.
Rival SKT, which conducted early SA tests in January and teased a launch in H1, reportedly also postponed to Q4, as did number two KT.
While there was speculation the operators would again work together for a simultaneous SA launch, the source said that is not the case, with each working independently on the timing of the deployments.
The operators introduced non-standalone 5G service in early April 2019, deploying an estimated 92,000 base stations by end-January. They agreed with the government to invest KRW4 trillion ($3.3 billion) in 5G networks in the first half of 2020.
GSMA Intelligence noted in a recent report SA 5G delivers more of the specific capabilities enterprises were likely to demand, including low-latency, high reliability and network slicing. Another key benefit is the technology doesn’t require blanket coverage to be effective.
In addition to migrating to SA, LG Uplus is reportedly working on 5G services on the 28GHz band, with plans to use mmWave spectrum in hotspots for industrial applications.
The Korea Herald reported in late April operators are targeting the launch of industrial 5G over mmWave frequencies by the year-end.
Current commercial services use mid-band (3.5GHz) spectrum.