KT to launch 5G by next March

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KT to launch 5G by next March

KT plans to roll out its next-generation 5G network to users as soon as next March after its test run at the PyeongChang Olympics proved a success.

The country’s second-largest mobile carrier said Thursday that its 5G system will offer true wireless service as opposed to fixed wireless service. Verizon is preparing to launch the first fixed wireless 5G service in the United States later this year. Fixed wireless 5G service requires the use of a router, and can only produce small networks for homes or offices.

“We are not going to say we have commercialized a 5G network after offering fixed wireless service for homes,” said Oh Seong-mok, the head of KT’s network division, at a press briefing Thursday at the company’s Gwanghwamun headquarters in central Seoul. “We can offer fixed wireless services for those who really need them, like households in rural areas with poor network infrastructure, but it will not be our focus.”

According to KT, the key to commercializing 5G is making sure users don’t lose connectivity as they move between the ranges of base stations which broadcast the signals.

A KT spokesperson said that the strategies behind deploying fixed wireless 5G in the United States and Korea differ because of the two countries’ telecommunications infrastructure. The United States still has many areas without the fiber cables that enable broadband service, and laying down the cables is costly. Fixed wireless 5G could prove to be a cheap, efficient alternative, delivering high-speed internet to customers who are currently poorly served.

KT wants to take the lead in Korea’s advanced telecommunications market by becoming the first company to provide a seamless mobile 5G network. Oh said that though its service will be first rolled out in major Korean cities, it aims to eventually create a nationwide network.

The company is also working to set up its 5G Open Lab, a research and development center in Seocho District, southern Seoul, that will share 5G technologies with small and medium-sized businesses. KT expects to open the lab within the next few months.

Even if KT manages to offer 5G by next March, customers will have to wait a little longer for 5G-enabled phones to hit the market. Global manufacturers are expected to launch the first 5G-capable commercial phones by the second quarter of next year.

KT said its first customers will likely be enterprise clients that can use the 5G network on their own devices.

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