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There are now at least a million 5G subscribers

People are flocking to the new network despite service issues

June 13,2019
The number of 5G service subscribers in Korea surpassed one million on Monday, the Ministry of Science and ICT confirmed Wednesday.

Despite complaints about the lack of coverage and unstable connections, the number of subscribers has continued to increase since the service launched on April 3, backed by aggressive marketing and discounts offered by carriers. Korea hit the one million mark just 69 days after commercialization.

When 4G LTE phones were first launched in 2011, it took roughly 80 days to hit a million subscribers, according to industry sources.

To satisfy increasing 5G demand, mobile carriers are striving to offer stable 5G coverage.

The number of 5G base stations increased by 6.9 percent month on month to 61,246 as of Monday, the Science Ministry said after a task force team meeting with representatives from mobile carriers and phone manufacturers Tuesday.

The carrier representatives said they will gradually start 5G services inside some 120 major buildings including airports, KTX stations and large shopping malls from next week. Ensuring a stable 5G connection inside buildings requires extra infrastructure.

As 5G runs on a higher frequency range than 4G LTE, it is more difficult for 5G signals to penetrate insulated construction materials. The carriers are working with subway operators to offer stable 5G connections there as well.

“We have greatly improved 5G connectivity that has been slow or even intermittently unavailable by software upgrades and optimizing networks,” the task force said in a statement.

Smartphone manufacturers said they have also offered 5G phone users software upgrades to make sure 5G phones don’t say they are connected to 5G when they are actually connected to 4G LTE.

This has been a problem as 5G phone users suffer from slower than expected internet speeds, even when phones say they are connected to 5G.

LG Electronics released a software upgrade on May 14 and Samsung Electronics introduced upgrades on May 27.

The Science Ministry said 85 percent of 5G users have upgraded their phones as of Sunday. Phone manufacturers will keep alerting customers so that all 5G phones are upgraded as soon as possible.

While currently only two 5G phones are on the market - Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy S10 5G and LG Electronics’ V50 ThinQ - the manufacturers said they will release more phones in the third quarter to increase options for consumers interested in switching to 5G. Expected 5G phones include the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Note10 from Samsung Electronics.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]


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