KT aims to launch 5G for corporate customers in March 2019

KT took the opportunity to emphasize its 5G competency during Mobile World Congress 2018. (Image: Monica Alleven/Fierce Wireless)

South Korea’s KT plans to launch a 5G service for corporate customers starting in March 2019, followed by a service for consumers between April and June, according to Korean media.

“KT will launch the 5G service for the first time in the world, combining true mobility, excellent service and nationwide coverage," said Oh Sung-mok, president of KT's network division, during a news conference on Thursday, according to the Yonhap news agency. The network initially will cover major metro areas like Seoul.

KT said it is not moving to commercialize the 5G network based on the Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) model currently being pursued by the Verizon, according to Yonhap. Verizon plans to offer fixed 5G in three to five U.S. cities this year.

Oh said commercializing the 5G service based on FWA would no longer be considered a major breakthrough in South Korea next year, as it has already showcased the technology successfully at the Winter Games, Yonhap said. Nikkei reported that Oh argued that Verizon's fixed-wireless service should be considered "pre-5G."  

The South Korean operator envisions its "Perfect 5G" commercial service will find use in such applications as smart factories that analyze data from cameras and sensors to boost productivity, as well as for high-quality advertising displays on trains, according to Nikkei. KT plans to join with small and midsize startups inside and outside South Korea to set up a body as soon as next month to discuss commercialization of 5G technology.

KT had a chance to showcase its technology, based on its own specifications, during the Pyeongchang Olympics in February. The service allowed athletes and visitors to experience super-fast data transmission while they were on the move.

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Interestingly, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and KT CEO Chang-Gyu Hwang used this year’s Super Bowl event to highlight what 5G can do, conducting a live video call between Minneapolis and Seoul using prototype 5G tablets from Samsung.

Verizon, KT and Samsung have been working closely on 5G research and development since 2015, including in Verizon’s 5G Technical Forum and KT’s PyeongChang 5G Special Interest Group, which collectively released early 5G specifications to foster the 5G ecosystem.

Both KT and fellow South Korean operator SK Telecom made 5G a big part of their push at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. Under the theme of “Perfect 5G,” SK also showed off various 5G-related technologies, including a real-time streaming technology of the 5G Non-standalone (NSA) standard as defined by 3GPP.