LG U+ wants more 5G spectrum, rivals call foul

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LG U+ wants more 5G spectrum, rivals call foul

LG U+ asked for more spectrum for its 5G network service, prompting complaints from rivals over unequal treatment by the government.
The telecom requested the Ministry of Science and ICT last Thursday for an additional 20 MHz spectrum range.
In a government spectrum auction in June 2018, SK Telecom and KT each bought 100 MHz spectrum bands, while LG U+ only bought 80 MHz. SKT bought the 3.6 to 3.7 GHz band for 1.2 trillion won ($1.046 trillion), KT bought the 3.5 to 3.6 GHz band for 968 billion won and LG U+ bought the 3.42 to 3.5 GHz band for 809.5 billion won. 
The 3.4 to 3.42 GHz band was not put up for sale at the time because the Science Ministry did not deem it usable, citing interference with neighboring frequencies and a lack of necessary tools to remedy it. After technical improvements, however, the Science Ministry cleared the 3.4 to 3.42 GHz spectrum for use on Dec. 5, 2019.
An LG U+ spokesperson said that the company needs the additional spectrum band because of growing demand for its 5G services, especially before the nationwide 5G roaming service that will begin in October.
From October, the three telecom companies will divide up Korea’s rural areas into three regions so that one telecom company will provide the 5G network per region, allowing the other two companies to share the network. This way, telecom companies won’t have to spend money on maintaining 5G networks for all regions.
LG U+ is in charge of setting up 5G networks in Gangwon, Jeolla and Jeju provinces. Users of SKT and KT in these areas will be using LG U+’s 5G network infrastructure.
The company claims that having a narrower 5G bandwidth compared to its rivals is a disadvantage to SKT and KT customers as well. The speed of the network service corresponds to the width of the network spectrum, which means the smaller a spectrum band, the slower the 5G network.
“We need the same spectrum band as the other two companies,” said an LG U+ spokesman. “That way, we can provide the same quality service across the country.”
SKT and KT are against the plan, claiming the late selling of an additional band is not fair and nullifies the meaning of holding an auction in the first place.
“It’s unfair for the other telecom companies to not be given the same favor,” said a rival company spokesperson who wished to remain anonymous. “A company takes part in an auction with an amount of money they deem necessary to win the prize. They cannot spend less, wait until the situation changes and ask for more later.”
The Ministry of Science said that nothing has been decided yet, and it will look into whether to hold an auction for the 20 MHz spectrum and how it might proceed. 
“We have just received the request from LG U+, so nothing has been decided yet,” an official from the Science Ministry said. “We will talk with the three companies and other experts to discuss whether the spectrum band can be sold and how it will be sold.”

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]
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