Samsung 5G mmWave trial clocks 1.8 Gbps Wi-Fi speeds in Seoul subway

Typical average speeds over Wi-Fi on subways in the South Korean capital of Seoul are currently around 71 Mbps. The Samsung trial enhanced that downlink average by approximately 25 times. (Getty Images)

Samsung is touting a new achievement using 5G mmWave as backhaul to boost Wi-Fi service in a moving subway train, hitting peak speeds of 1.8 Gbps.

The trial took place in South Korea in parts of the Seoul Metro. It was conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Science and Technology of Korea and three Korean mobile carriers, according to a Samsung spokesperson. South Korea’s main three mobile operators are KT Corp., SK Telecom, and LG U+.

Typical average speeds over Wi-Fi on subways in the capital of Seoul are currently around 71 Mbps. The trial enhanced that downlink average by approximately 25 times, using a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the vendor’s 5G Compact Macro unit.

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For the demo, Samsung installed 26 5G mmWave Compact Macro units (which combine a baseband unit, radio and antenna in a single lightweight form factor), along railways across five stations in the subway line that run through major downtown locations. It used 800 MHz of spectrum in the 28 GHz mmWave band.

Part of the aim was to show how 5G mmWave can be used as backhaul to deliver faster speeds, but another key focus was the high bandwidth to support a large number of devices in busy areas like public transit, sports stadiums or shopping centers. Densely populated venues have been a target for mmWave 5G by U.S. operators as well. Verizon has 5G mmWave in parts of 25 NFL stadiums and AT&T is deploying mmWave 5G at seven major airports this year and 25 by the end of 2022.

Samsung has become a challenger to leading equipment vendors like Ericsson and Nokia, scoring 5G contract wins in key markets such as Verizon in the U.S.

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The promising results of the recent trial in South Korea mean Seoul’s subway systems could see Samsung gear installed for more than just the trial.

“The plan is not specifically confirmed yet, but with the good speed results achieved, it is expected that a new plan will be announced based on it,” the Samsung spokesperson confirmed, in terms of whether the 5G units would become permanent fixtures.

South Korea has been an early mover on 5G, with praise from third-party testing companies on major operator's performance, including from RootMetrics for both speed and coverage.  

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“We are pleased to deliver enhanced mobile experiences, including faster download speeds and connections, for subway passengers, leveraging our advanced 5G mmWave solution," said Seungil Kim, VP and head of Korea Business, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics, in a statement. “Our successful speed trial on public transportation proves the high potential of 5G mmWave, demonstrating its capability to complement existing wireless technologies, and boosting performance of legacy networks, all while providing a foundation for future telecommunication services.”

Providing connectivity to the transportation sector has been an aim of other industry players, including neutral host infrastructure providers like BAI, which has projects in the U.S., Hong Kong, Toronto and most recently the London Underground in the U.K.