Early 5G network deployments in South Korea are producing speedy download results, with operator LG Uplus delivering a slight performance edge over competitors, according to new RootMetrics testing.
South Korean carriers SK Telecom, KT Corp and LG Uplus turned on 5G networks in early April. By mid-June the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT announced that together the South Korean operators had hit the 1 million 5G subscriber mark.
For its latest report (PDF), RootMetrics tested the three mobile networks between June 28 and July 6, using the LG V50 ThinQ 5G smartphone in densely populated areas of downtown Seoul, during test drives in suburban areas around the city, and on the Seoul-Busan KTX transit line during peak-usage hours.
“The LG U+ network stood out with the best and most consistent speed performance among the South Korean operators,” wrote study authors of the RootMetrics report.
While the report shows 5G is delivering faster speeds in South Korea, none of the operators’ networks passed the 1 Gbps benchmark that some U.S. carriers’ early 5G networks have blazed past.
LG Uplus delivered the fastest peak 5G download speed, clocking in at 902.7 Mbps and the highest 5G median download speed at 426.4 Mbps. This compares to SK Telecom’s peak 5G speed of 638.7 Mbps and median download speed of 286.9 Mbps. KT had the second-fastest maximum 5G download speed of 751 Mbps but was the slowest in terms of median speed, which came in at 163 Mbps. Still KT’s median 5G significantly improved from median LTE speeds of 61.6 Mbps.
“LG U+’s blazing-fast 5G speeds combined with its strong reliability and low latency gives the operator an edge over the competition in the early phases of 5G deployments,” wrote RootMetrics.
Median 5G latency for LG Uplus was 72 ms, compared to 159 ms for its non-5G mode latency score. Reliability for connecting to the LG Uplus 5G network was 100%, while staying connected was 97.9% reliable.
“As the operator’s 5G download availability rate of 44.6% continues to grow, the end-user experience should get even faster and more reliable,” wrote RootMetrics in the report.
The other two operators also each earned high marks for 5G reliability. SK Telecom and KT both notched 99.9% reliability for staying connected to 5G – while getting connected to KT’s was 100% reliable, and SK wasn’t far behind at 99.7%.
KT’s 5G network latency was 107 ms, significantly improved from non-5G mode latency of 236 ms. SK Telecom didn’t shine with latency of 195 ms, compared to 197 ms non-5G, but RootMetrics expects that figure to improve over time as the operator’s 5G network matures.
As seen in the U.S., consumers won’t always be connected to 5G even in areas where the next-generation service is available, so looking at reliability of mixed mode network connections is also important.
KT came out on top in mixed mode network reliability for getting connected (100%) and staying connected (97.7%), followed by LG Uplus with respective scores of 99.2% and 98.2%. RootMetrics found connecting to SK Telecom’s network across mixed mode was 99.3% reliable, while maintaining the connection was 96.2% reliable.
“While there is justifiable excitement surrounding 5G, initial test results suggest that a few early growing pains must be worked out,” wrote authors of the RootMetrics report. “This shouldn’t a surprise, nor should it dampen enthusiasm for the possibilities that 5G will eventually bring.”
Last year SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus participated in South Korea’s 5G spectrum auction, each scooping up spectrum in the 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands.
For its report, RootMetrics collected 16,306 total samples, visited 30 indoor locations and drove 1,252 kilometers.