5G Remains Hard to Access 100 Days After Launch

  • By Kim Bong-kee

    July 11, 2019 12:36

    Some 1.64 million out of 2.13 million subscribers to the 5G network in the world were in Korea as of the end of June, nearly 100 days since after the service was rolled out here.

    According to the Global System for Mobile Communications, four out of five 5G users or 77.5 percent are in Korea, about 10 times more than the 150,000 in runner-up U.K., and 16 times more than 100,000 in the U.S., which began the 5G service an hour after Korea.

    On the surface, Korea is well ahead of the competition, but the service is only selectively available, and even in Seoul it is hard to get a signal in buildings or subway trains.

    According to a report by the Ministry of Science and ICT on Wednesday, Seoul is the only place in the country with 5G base stations in the subway. There are six KT bases on Subway Line No. 2, 22 SK Telecom bases on Line No. 3, and 20 LG Uplus bases on Line No. 4 and on Line No. 7. But 876 base stations are needed for 5G service across the Seoul metro system, so that is a mere 5.9 percent.

    In Busan, Daegu, Gwangju and Daejeon there is not a single base station in the metro systems, nor in the capital region outside Seoul proper.


    Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Yoon Sang-jick, who requested the report, said, "The ministry promised to have 5G base stations in place in metro systems across the country in April, when the 5G service was launched, but not much has happened. Subscribers are paying for 5G but not benefiting."

    The three major telecoms have set up 62,641 5G base stations above ground, just seven percent of the over 870,000 4G LTE stations, and 58.6 percent are concentrated in Seoul and the surrounding region. In the provinces there are a mere 25,000 5G stations even though customers pay the full fee.

    An industry insider said, "There is no real significance in being the first country in the world to provide 5G service unless it's brought up to a level that can satisfy customers." 

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