Science Ministry releases more subsidies for 5G

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Science Ministry releases more subsidies for 5G

The Science Ministry announced Wednesday it will inject 650 billion won ($533 million) this year into improving the country’s 5G network.

Korea’s mobile companies have frequently touted the country’s first-in-the-world 5G network, but user reviews have been a mixed bag. One year out from the historic launch, spotty connections remain a frequent complaint, even in densely populated Seoul.

The Ministry of Science and ICT said local carriers such as SK Telecom, KT and LG U+ will expand their investment on the network this year to 4 trillion won, up from their previous commitment of 2.7 trillion won.

To enhance the quality of 5G connectivity, the telecom companies will broaden in-building wireless coverage by erecting 5G base stations at 2,000 large establishments, including airports and department stores.

One reason for unstable connections inside the city stemmed from the lack of network equipment inside buildings.

The trio of telecom companies had set up 109,000 5G towers in 85 cities as of February, but only about 500 buildings are equipped with the infrastructure to run the latest network.

The ministry will also spearhead the deployment of a standalone version of 5G.

Korean carriers currently use the non-standalone version, which introduces delays.

When the non-standalone network fails to detect a stable 5G signal, it pushes the connection to the existing 4G infrastructure, increasing the time it takes for data transmitted from the user’s device to reach its target.

The problem can only be solved once the carriers move to a standalone version of 5G.

The three carriers have said they plan to eventually migrate to standalone, with SKT aiming for the first half of 2020.

The subsidies will also support the network’s deployment in specific industry areas.

The ministry aims to equip 200 smart factories with 5G this year while supporting virtual reality and augmented reality content that runs best on the high-bandwidth 5G network.

The carriers will also be allowed to use the 28-gigahertz (GHz) band for 5G, in addition to the 3.5-GHz spectrum.

The Science Ministry said that it will invite different government agencies to assess and further develop projects related to 5G.

In the Wednesday meeting, the ministries of Education and National Defense joined for the first time.

Other participating departments include the Ministry of Economy and Finance; Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; and Korea Communications Commission.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]

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