Full-scale 5G services have long way to go

Korean telecom companies are failing to receive positive responses from users after they began to offer the world’s first commercial fifth-generation (5G) network services last week.

Users said the 5G mobile networks seem to still have a long way to go before they will be able to see noticeable dynamic changes and better performances compared to the previous generation network services.

Users are largely dissatisfied with the fact that mobile carriers have yet to establish sufficient base stations on a national scale. This converts 5G networks to fourth-generation, or LTE, networks in many cases when users are using the super-fast 5G mobile phone services.

“I bought a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphone, but it seems like the 5G services are still in the experimental stage,” said Choi Ji-na, an office worker in Seoul.

She said it seems it would have been wiser to purchase a 5G smartphone two to three years from now.

Users said they frequently saw LTE signals in areas that have a large floating population, such as Gangnam and streets near Hongik University. They could not use 5G services smoothly inside buildings’ basements, either.

Industry sources said telecom firms need to install more base stations to offer stable 5G services than those for LTE networks as 5G frequencies are easily affected by obstacles. But telecom companies are still working to widen their coverage.

The situation is even worse in provincial cities and rural towns.

According to Rep. Byun Jae-ill of the governing Democratic Party, 64.4 percent of 5G base stations are located in Seoul and the surrounding area, while 21.2 percent are located in five metropolitan cities.

He said the total number of 5G base stations nationwide is 85,261, and among those, 54,899 are in Seoul and the surrounding area.

“There are limitations in terms of areas in which users can fully utilize 5G mobile phone services as the commercial 5G services are at an early stage,” Rep. Byun said. “Telecom companies will have to offer accurate information of 5G services areas to users to minimize confusion.”

Regarding the issue, an official from KT said, “We plan to achieve 80 percent coverage in our 5G services by the end of the year.”

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