South Korean operators to share 5G network infrastructure costs

5G sign
SK Telecom, KT, LG Uplus and SK Broadband will share the costs of building out 5G. (FierceWireless)

Mobile carriers and an ISP in South Korea will share the costs of building the infrastructure for a 5G network, saving about $938 million over the next 10 years, according to Korean media.

The move, announced by the Ministry of Science and ICT, would keep SK Telecom, KT Corp., LG Uplus and SK Broadband from making redundant investments, according to Yonhap. Details of how each firm will pay are yet to be worked out.

"Our is goal is to lead the fourth industrial revolution and to support the early commercialization of 5G technology," said Jun Sung-bae, a senior ICT ministry official, according to Yonhap.

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

KT last month announced plans to launch a 5G service for corporate customers starting in March 2019, followed by a service for consumers between April and June. The company said its service would combine true mobility with nationwide coverage, although initially the network will only cover major metro areas like Seoul.

According to Yonhap, South Korea plans to hold a public hearing this month before completing a 5G spectrum allocation in June. The 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands will be made available.

The news agency last month said the government was still trying to determine how best to hand out the spectrum, with one option being to share them equally among the three mobile carriers, and another to distribute them unevenly to give the biggest bidder an advantage. 

SK, the biggest player of the three, prefers unequal allocation, while KT and LG Uplus support equal distribution, with the two smaller firms believing that an unequal distribution will give undue advantages to SK Telecom.

Korean operators made 5G a big part of their push at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. Under the theme of “Perfect 5G,” SK showed off various 5G-related technologies, including a realtime streaming technology of the 5G Non-standalone standard as defined by 3GPP and a 5G-LTE interworking technology that transmitted data by crossing between the LTE frequency band of 2.6 GHz and a 5G frequency band identified as 3.5 GHz-28 GHz.