A senior Analysys Mason analyst noted South Korean operators SK Telecom (SKT) and KT are taking vastly different approaches to their rollouts of 5G, despite simultaneously launching the next-generation technology along with LG Uplus in December 2018.

Market leader SKT is opting for a network architecture which will maximise data speeds, while KT is more focused on low latency, Remy Pascal stated in a recent tweet.

SKT is implementing a dual-connectivity strategy using both LTE and New Radio 5G networks, which together support peak data speeds of more than 2Gb/s. Two weeks ago the operator and Samsung completed device interoperability tests on 4G and 5G networks, claiming a peak data rate of 2.6Gb/s using a Galaxy S10 smartphone.

Pascal reckons number two operator KT is not moving towards dual connectivity because using LTE will result in higher latency. Specifically, he explained the operator will “not implement LTE-NR dual connectivity with simultaneous connection” between the networks. As a result, the downlink will use KT’s 4G or 5G network “but not the two combined”.

The analyst expects the approach to mean KT’s peak data rate on 5G will be restricted to around 1Gb/s, albeit with lower latency.

KT this week claimed a peak data rate of 1Gb/s on its commercial 5G network running on the 3.5GHz band in Seoul, also using Samsung’s Galaxy S10.

April launch
Local media said the three operators will launch commercial 5G services for consumers on 5 April.

The operators in early March pushed back ambitious plans to launch nationwide 5G commercial services for consumers by the end of the month due to a number of setbacks, including handset availability and the government rejecting their pricing proposals.

All three claimed the initial launches in late 2018 were the first commercial 5G services based on 3GPP standards. But the services had limited coverage and were only available for businesses using mobile routers, with the operators plotting their consumer launch around commercial availability of compatible handsets.

As part of its 3.5GHz announcement, KT said its 5G network will be ready for end-user mobile service in 85 cities, running on 30,000 base stations across the country, by end-March.

Pascal said LG Uplus now has 18,000 5G base stations.