South Korea’s 5G Download Speed Averages 656.6 Mbps: Report

5G High speed network internet connection. Reaching 5g, speedometer indicator, internet speed test, closeup view. 3d illustration

By Juan Pedro Tomás

5G networks in South Korea are currently showing poorer results than initially expected, with their download speeds and connection far lower than what telecom operators have initially claimed, Korean press reported, citing an assessment report carried out by the government.

South Korea was the first country to launch commercial  5G in April last year, but 5G subscribers have been complaining of the network’s lower-than-expected speed and unstable connectivity.

The average download speed on 5G networks run by the country’s three mobile carriers — SK Telecom, KT Corp., and LG Uplus,  stood at 656.6 Mbps, just four times faster than the average 4G LTE speed of 158.5 Mbps, according to the report compiled by Korea’s ICT ministry.

According to the report, KT and LG Uplus have advertised their 5G network data speed as 20 times faster than the 4G LTE network.

The assessment report, conducted in capital Seoul and six other major cities, also found that during downloads on 5G, about 6 per cent of the time on average was helped by 4G LTE. The country’s 5G networks currently operate through non-standalone architecture.

The assessment report tested a total of 3,826 public buildings nationwide where the mobile operators have installed 5G equipment.

SK Telecom recorded the fastest download speeds of up to 788.97 Mbps, followed by KT at 652.1 Mbps and LG Uplus at 528.6 Mbps.

“There are still a lot of locations, including indoor environments, that are not covered by the network,” director-general of the ICT ministry’s telecommunication policy bureau, Hong Jin-bae said. “We want telecom operators to quickly work toward ensuring network quality that meets expectations.”

The Korean government announced plans to conduct a similar assessment later this month to encourage operators to further develop and update the 5G network.

The government recently said that local operators had already deployed over 115,000 5G base stations across the country.

In March, the Korean government said that the country’s three major telecom carriers had agreed to invest KRW 4 trillion (US$3.4 billion) in their 5G networks during the first half of this year.  Operators will heavily invest to install additional 5G equipment with the aim of expanding the coverage of current 5G networks across the country.

Korean telcos also expect to commercialize an ultrafast mmWave 5G network this year, according to recent press reports.

The mmWave 5G service will be initially available for the business-to-business segment. Operators have not yet finalized investment plans for the business-to-consumer sector, as the cost of building additional infrastructure still represents a major issue.

Due to the high level of capital expenditures needed, the launch of the mmWave 5G network for personal smart devices is likely to start next year or in 2022, the report said.

Korean carriers are also paving the way to offer 5G via standalone networks. LG Uplus previously said it had completed tests of core technologies supporting voice service running on a standalone (SA) 5G network as the carrier expects to launch 5G based on SA architecture later this year.

In a statement, the operator said the tests verified the performance of evolved packet system (EPS) fallback and voice over 5G (Vo5G), and demonstrated it is ready to deliver stable and high-quality 5G voice services.

Rival operators SK Telecom and KT have also carried out tests of 5G SA networks and aim to launch this technology during the second half of this year, according to previous reports.

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