The competition among major mobile carriers in South Korea, China and Japan is growing fiercer to provide world’s first 5G commercial services. The three countries are seeking to show off the competitiveness in their information communication technologies (ICT) through global sporting events such as the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
According to major foreign press and industry sources on May 15, KT Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu said, “KT will commercialize 5G services in 2019 for the first time in the world,” during a keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017, the world’s largest mobile industry, held in Barcelona, Spain, in February. After that, the 5G competitive structure between South Korea, China and Japan is being rapidly reorganized.
The governments and mobile carriers, which had established their commercialization strategies according to the 3GPP calendar of 5G international standards, are scrambling to commercialize 5G services early in 2019 all at once. First, the Chinese and Japanese governments have announced their 5G commercialization roadmaps and started establishing the test bed for 5G convergence services at the same time.
In addition, China’s China Mobile announced its cooperation plan to standardize 5G networks with AT&T of the U.S., NTT Docomo of Japan and Vodafone of the U.K. and will complete the 5G standardization by December 2019. Japanese mobile giant SoftBank also declared to commercialize 5G by the end of 2019 along with its subsidiary carrier Sprint in the U.S. and global smartphone chip maker Qualcomm. Moreover, the competition for 5G-based ICT convergence services is expected to be accelerated further as the 3GPP decided to set the non-stand-alone (NSA) standards, which allows to use both existing 4G LTE and 5G networks like one network, by the end of this year.
In this regard, the relevant authorities, like the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), initially planned to secure a total of 1300㎒ bandwidth of new frequency for 5G, including a minimum of 1000㎒ width in the 28㎓ frequency band and 300㎒ width in the 3.5㎓ frequency band, and establish a specific allocation plan by late next year. Also, it was planning to re-examine the calculation method of frequency allocation prices and come up with its 5G convergence service strategy, such as smart car, smart city and smart factory, at the 5G convergence service research team.
However, some pointed out that South Korea’s policies for the world’s first 5G commercialization, including K-ICT spectrum plan, are losing power as the ICT department is likely to be reorganized after the change of government. An official from the mobile communication industry said, “We are working together with the MSIP to fix the time to secure frequency in order to prevent delays in the 5G commercialization. All the situations are variables.”