Is demand for 5G already beginning to wane in Korea?

Published: 26 January 2020 - 7:36 a.m.

South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has confirmed that the country has racked up 4.35 million 5G subscribers, since it launched its next generation mobile network services in April last year. However, after an almost insatiable demand for 5G, subscriber growth rates fell to just 9.3 per cent on a month on month basis.

A report in the Korea Times blames a delay in getting innovative 5G smartphone handsets to market for the fall in subscriber growth. It also claims that unstable, patchy coverage has played a part in deterring prospective subscribers from upgrading in the short term.

South Korea has rolled out nearly 95,000 5G base stations so far, some way short of the 870,000 LTE base stations in the country.

"Usually, the year end is off-season and company marketing budgets are depleted. Also a lot of our budget was used when the new iPhone was released in October, but we began to boost marketing at the beginning of the year," a KT official said.

Data from the Ministry of Science and ICT showed that new 5G subscriptions peaked at 882,831 in August 2019 but had fallen to 516,048 by the end of October.

South Korea’s big three mobile network operators became the first in the world to launch fifth generation mobile network services in April 2019. Since then, Korea has been seen as the proving ground for 5G, with KT SK Telecoms and LG Uplus all scrambling to densify their fledgling 5G networks as quickly as possible.

Earlier this month, all three mobile network operators committed to boosting network coverage over their 5G networks during the busy Lunar New Year holiday.

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