South Korea has won the race to become the first country in the world to launch 5G services as the three mobile operators activated the 5G mobile phones of their first subcribers at 11 p.m. on April 3. With the release of Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S10 5G model on April 5, ordinary users have started using 5G service as well. The three mobile operators are competitively offering unlimited rate plans and specialized services to attract subscribers.
The characteristics of 5G mobile telecommunication include a high data rate, ultra-low latency, super-connectivity, energy saving and cost reduction. These features are expected to enable many new services, including autonomous driving, smart factory, telemedicine and immersive media content such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
All three mobile companies have come up with a 5G rate system starting at around 50,000 won. However, the basic plan offers less than 10 gigabytes (GB) of data per month. Although this plan offers a larger amount of data than a similar rate plan for LTE users, it will be exhausted in less than an hour when VR and UHD streaming services are used. Although customers can continue to use their phones at 1 Mbps when all data provided is used, streaming of high-definition images is difficult.
All of the three telecom companies' major rate plans start at around 80,000 won. KT Corp. ignited competition by introducing a “Super Plan” that provides unlimited amount of 5G data at 80,000 won per month. It also offers an unlimited overseas data roaming at 100 kbps, a level that allows customers to use text messages. KT's unlimited LTE data fee is 89,000 won per month. KT intends to take the lead in the 5G race with a product that is cheaper than its LTE service. KT’s unlimited data plans that are priced at 100,000 won and 130,000 won per month are differentiated by VVIP benefits and overseas data roaming speed.
SK Telecom has come up with a different rate system. Its 5GX standard rate plan, which is 75,000 won per month, gives basic 150 GB of data. When customers use up the given data, they can use their phones at 5 Mbps. SK Telecom has more expensive plans that offer unlimited data: 5GX Prime that is priced at 89,000 won per month and 5GX Platinum that charges 125,000 won. However, SK Telecom has put forward the condition that customers should sign up by the end of June and can use unlimited data only until the end of the year. When the condition is not met, customers should pay 95,000 won for 5GX Prime and are offered only 200 GB of data. The price and data limit for 5GX Platinum are 125,000 won and 300 GB.
LG Uplus was the first to come up with a 5G rate system. It disclosed its plans on March 29. But it unveiled a new plan and launched a promotional event on April 4 as the other two companies introduced unlimited data rate plans. Initially, it offered 5G Lite which provides 9 GB (1Mbps after data depletion) for 55,000 won per month, 5G Standard that offers 150 GB (5 Mbps after data expiration) for 75,000 won, and 5G Premium that provides 250 GB (10 Mbps after data depletion) for 95,000 won. It added 5G Special that gives 200 GB (10 Mbps after data depletion) for 85,000 won. In addition, if customers sign up for the 5G Special and 5G Premium rate plans by June 30, it will provide them with unlimited data until the end of the year, just like SK Telecom.
Market watchers believe that KT came up with the most attractive rate plan. SK Telecom and LG Uplus say they will offer unlimited data to subscribers of premium plans until the end of the year, but may extend the period depending on market reactions.
The three mobile service providers also introduced a variety of content that takes advantage of the high-speed, ultra-low delay characteristics of 5G. A case in point is the broadcasting of professional baseball games. All three operators have upgraded their baseball broadcasting content. SK Telecom has released 5GX Wide View that can show a panoramic view of SK Happy Dream Stadium in Incheon, the home stadium of SK Wyverns, with 12K UHD quality and expand the areas that users want. KT also set up seven ultra-high-definition cameras and 40 HD-class cameras at Suwon KT Wiz Park to provide video from various angles and show the trajectory of pitching and hitting. LG Uplus also upgraded its U+ Professional Baseball App, adding a variety of features such as "field zoom-in."
There is also fierce competition in the areas of games and e-sports. SK Telecom is planning to broadcast the Korean league matches of the popular e-sports event, the League of Legend (LOL), on VR and AR. Niantic's new AR game "Harry Potter AR" will be provided and "Cartrider VR" will also be showcased in partnership with Nexon. It will also host a promotion that will allow users to use the services of game streaming platform Hatch. LG Uplus will join hands with NVIDIA to launch the cloud game service " GeForce Now" on its own. SK Telecom and LG Uplus are also planning to give VR devices free of charge to subscribers who signed up for expensive rate plans. KT brought out e-sports broadcasting service called “e-Sports Llive.” Up to five screens can be viewed at the same time using 5G network. It plans to broadcast games such as “Battleground” and “StarCraft.”