Research analysis
SK Telecom to lead initial commercial 5G operations in Korea
Ricky Tu, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei

As Korea will adopt 4G LTE-based non-standalone (NSA) architecture for its initial commercial 5G operations, SK Telecom (SKT) will have a competitive advantage over fellow companies KT and LG U+, leveraging its established, faster 4G LTE networks, according to Digitimes Research.

The download speeds of SKT's LTE networks in metropolitan areas as well as in second- and third-tier cities are better than those performed by KT and LG U+, according to Korea's Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT).

Given that Korea's 5G preliminary commercial operations will focus on Seoul and other metropolitan areas, SKT is expected to be able to provide faster 5G communication services under the initial 5G environments, Digitimes Research notes.

KT, which leads SKT and LG U+ in terms of Wi-Fi transmission services, aims to further enhance its market position in the Wi-Fi sector by launching 10Gbps optical fixed-line services in 2019 to enable faster connection and to win 5G service subscribers.

LG U+ claimed that it is faster in terms of 5G network establishment as it had installed over 10,000 5G base stations as of the end of January 2019, which is positive for the firm to expand its network coverage.

The three major telecom operators already completed bids for 5G frequency spectrums and selected suppliers for 5G equipment in 2018 in order to meet the government's preliminary target for the commercialization of its 5G networks set before the end of March 2019.

For the selection of 5G equipment, SKT and KT both have excluded the use of related base stations from Huawei and instead will partner with Samsung Electronics, Nokia, and Ericsson, while LG U+ has decided to use Huawei's equipment.

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