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LG U+ scrambles to improve 5G

Carrier has only a few base stations in some larger urban areas

May 07,2019
LG U+ is accelerating the build out of its 5G network outside the greater Seoul area, especially focusing on cities where it has only a handful of base stations.

The push comes as 5G in Korea has been the subject of widespread complaints and as frustrated customers have started dropping their plans.

LG U+ said Monday it will fully cover the six major metropolitan areas — Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Busan, Ulsan — by June and have service in 85 cities nationwide by the end of this year.

The company currently has 20,000 base stations in the country.

LG U+ has received complaints about its poor coverage outside the capital area. Compared to its rivals — SK Telecom and KT — LG U+ has the least extensive 5G coverage outside of capital area.

As of April 22, LG U+ had 7,415 base stations in Seoul and 3,038 in Gyeonggi. But it had only five in Sejong, eight in South Jeolla and 10 in South Gyeongsang, according to a report from Rep. Yoon Sang-jick of the Liberty Korea Party quoting data from the Ministry of Science and ICT.

LG U+ said it will install an additional 7,800 base stations in capital areas, like Seoul, Gyeonggi and Incheon, to strengthen the network.

Regarding LG’s weak coverage, a company spokesperson said that they have had “delays in building out the network in some areas due to Nokia’s network equipment supply issues.” The company uses 5G network equipment supplied by Samsung Electronics, Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson.

To speed up the process, LG U+ is committing more labor to the project and utilizing technology that allows the installation of 5G base stations on existing optical circuits.

LG U+ will jointly install base stations with SK Telecom and KT to serve the KTX, highways, subways, hotels and airports.
“We are currently speeding up the installation of 5G base stations using a special task force that is responsible for signing contracts on equipment and construction,” LG U+ said in a statement.

“We plan to install 80,000 base stations by the end of this year to provide a differentiated service.”

As of April 29, a total of 260,000 people had 5G accounts — a higher than expected takeup, according to industry insiders. But users have complained about the network, saying coverage is spotty and connections are slow. They also said that 5G may be interfering with the existing 4G LTE network.

According to a report by Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee of the ruling Democratic Party, a total of 1,316 people had dropped their 5G subscriptions as of April 30. This is around 0.5 percent of total subscribers.

They primarily complained of choppy handoffs when shifting between 5G and 4G. A report last month by Consumers Korea, a nonprofit organization, indicated that 89 percent of 131 5G complaints it received concerned quality. About 67 percent said they wanted to cancel their 5G plan, while 20 percent said they wanted a discount.

BY JIN MIN-JI, KIM KYOUNG-JIN [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]


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