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Telecommunication operators in South Korea pooled together all their resources and simultaneously turned on their 5G networks at midnight on December 1st to claim that they’re the first country in the world to launch commercial 5G services that are based on 3GPP standards.

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus were all encouraged by the Korea Ministry of Science and ICT to work together in an effort to avoid excessive competition and help South Korea become the first country in the world to introduce the next-generation technology commercially. 

It has been hailed as a major coup by ICT business leaders in South Korea, although it has been pointed out that the services have very limited coverage and are only initially available for businesses using mobile routers.

In addition to this, it has been disclosed that the operators are aiming to target consumers with nationwide coverage in March. 5G handsets are expected to become available after MWC 2019, so operators are aiming for a timeline in March to rollout nationwide 5G services.

SK Telecom released a statement following the official announcement and claimed that its 5G network now covers the main areas of 13 cities and counties, which includes the capital city of Seoul. The first call over SKT’s commercial 5G network was made by its CEO Park Jung-ho in Bundang, Gyeonggi to manager Park Sook-hee in Myeongdong. The call was made 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. 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 declined to make an announcement, but Yonhap News Agency said it launched 5G services 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.

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.


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