SK Telecom (SKT), KT and LG Uplus simultaneously turned on their 5G networks at midnight on 1 December, launching what they claim are the world’s first commercial 5G services based on 3GPP standards.
But the services have limited coverage and are intially only available for businesses using mobile routers, with the operators planning to target consumers with nationwide coverage in March as 5G handsets become available.
SKT said its 5G network now covers the main areas of 13 cities and counties, including Seoul and four cities in Gyeonggi-do. The first call over SKT’s commercial 5G network was made by CEO Park Jung-ho in Bundang, Gyeonggi-do to manager Park Sook-hee in Myeongdong using a Samsung 5G smartphone prototype.
LG Uplus vice chairman Ha Hyun-hwoi made the first video call on its 5G network from a notebook PC connected to a Samsung 5G router in Daejeon Technical Centre to an office in Seoul.
⚡ Congratulations to South Korea for launching the world’s first #5G commercial services – conducted through the Samsung 5G Mobile Hotspot and 5G prototype smartphone. 🇰🇷 🇺🇸
— SamsungDC (@SamsungDC) December 2, 2018
The operator said it installed 4,100 5G base stations and plans to roll out more than 7,000 by end-December, with coverage expanding to 85 cities.
KT didn’t make an announcement, but Yonhap News Agency said it launched 5G service in parts of Seoul and the surrounding area. The company is recovering from a recent fire in a cable tunnel in Seoul, which caused a network blackout.
Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT in July pushed for the operators to collaborate to “avoid excessive competition” and ensure the country is the first to launch the next-generation technology. Since then, they have worked towards a joint commercial 5G launch.
The country was one of the first to auction 5G spectrum, raising KRW3.61 trillion ($3.2 billion) in a sale of 3.5GHz and 28GHz airways in June.