South Korea to get the world's first 5G commercial network in Q1, 2019

Martyn Warwick
By Martyn Warwick

Nov 20, 2018

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Dongjun Lee, 5G Network Strategy at KT Corporation

South Korea is justly renowned for being at the absolute forefront of communications technology and its state-of-the-art wired and wireless infrastructure. KT Corporation, (formerly known as Korea Telecom) is the country's powerful incumbent telco and already has a very advanced and hugely popular LTE network. However, at Dongjun Lee explains, it's not enough. Subscribers are demanding more and more bandwidth and KT"s response is to introduce the world's first 5G commercial network. It will go live in Q1, 2019. In the first instance KT will target domestic end users and 5G services will be available in major cities and key hotspots such as airports, railways and along big highways. Later the service will expand to cover the entire country. Dongjun Lee says KT began thinking seriously about 5G in 2015 and, working with a range of vendors including Samsung, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm, built a pre-commercial version of it's 5G specification, from scratch, in just a year.

Donjun Lee is certain that Wi-Fi will be an important factor in South Korea's 5G future. He points out that KT already has upwards of 100,000 4G hotspot access points throughout its network and recently launched a commercial service, based on the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, that is available to customers in Starbucks coffee shops around the country. KT intends to expand Wi-Fi 6 technology to other parts of its network and will focus on providing it to the enterprise market.

Mr. Lee adds that Wi-Fi 6 is important because it solves the nagging interference problems that frequently disrupt current Wi-Fi services that are based on earlier versions of wireless standards. It's also important because in the recent 5G spectrum auction, KT paid US$1 billion for a licence that lasts just seven years. He says the costs associated with deploying 5G are huge but they will be ameliorated by access to Wi-Fi's unlicensed bandwidth and that is another major factor that will guarantee the technology has a long-term future.

Filmed at Wireless Global Congress, London 2018

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