South Korean mobile operator KT says it surpassed 1 million 5G subscribers as of September 21, according to Korean press reports.

The mobile network operator launched commercial 5G services in the country in early April. KT is the second largest carrier in the Asian country, with nearly 31% share of the mobile market.

KT also announced roaming agreements with partners in China, Italy, Finland and Switzerland. Under the terms of these deals, KT’s subscribers will be able to access 5G services provided by China Mobile, Tim, Elisa and Sunrise.

TIM currently offers 5G services in Rome, Naples and Turin. Sunrise launched 5G services in 262 cities across Switzerland including Geneva and Zurich in May, while Elisa, Finland’s leading carrier, is providing 5G services in five cities including Helsinki.

The Korean telco highlighted that roaming is only available using the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, but KT said the service will be expanded to other models. The operator’s Super Plan gives subscribers unlimited data roaming in the four countries.

KT aims to have its 5G commercial offering available in 85 major cities nationwide by the end of this year, covering the country’s key transportation routes, including two major highways, six airports, and the ground section of high-speed railways. The company plans to expand the coverage to subways, public offices and university hospitals.

South Korean market leader SK Telecom said it reached the 1 million 5G subscriber milestone on August 21. The company’s 5G subscribers currently represent more than 3.5% of its total subscriber base of 28 million. SK Telecom also said it aims to end this year with over 2 million 5G subscribers.

SK Telecom worked with Ericsson who has provided the telecom with different variants of mid-band Massive MIMO, and in the second half of 2019, began providing mmWave technology in hotspots to address extreme capacity needs.

Meanwhile, LG Uplus, South Korea’s third-largest telco, had 540,000 5G subscribers on its 5G network at the end of August. The telco’s 5G network includes around 50,000 5G base stations in Seoul and surrounding areas, as well as some metropolitan cities. The operator is aiming to deploy 80,000 base stations across South Korea and cover 90% of the population by the end of 2019.

South Korea claimed to be the first country in the world to launch full 5G commercial services on April 3. 5G coverage in Korea is restricted to urban areas and places where there are a large number of people.

The three Korean carriers launched limited 5G commercial services in December 2018 as part of an agreement with the ICT ministry to launch simultaneously to avoid excessive competition. The three mobile carriers initially launched the 5G service in limited areas in Seoul

In June 2018, South Korea completed a tender process through which it awarded spectrum in both the 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands. The government made available a total of 280 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band and 2,400 megahertz in the 28 GHz band. The spectrum was divided into 28 blocks and 24 blocks.

Participant operators SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus had a 10-block cap per spectrum band. The telcos paid a total of 3.6183 trillion won ($3.3 billion) for the spectrum, 340 billion won higher than the starting price of 3.3 trillion won.

The 3.5 GHz band licenses covering a ten-year period and the 28 GHz band licenses a five-year term.


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