SK Telecom leads in 5G speed at 795.57 Mbps in South Korea

5G download speed and quality improved in South Korea in the second half of the year from the first half.
SK Telecom 5G pricing
The 5G download speed on the high-speed network from SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus — stood at 690.47 Mbps in the second half of the year, up 33.91 Mbps from the first half, according to data from the Ministry of Science and ICT.

SK Telecom had the fastest average download speed at 795.57 Mbps, followed by KT at 667.48 Mbps and LG Uplus at 608.49 Mbps.

The country’s average 4G LTE download speed reached 153.1 Mbps, more than four times slower than the average 5G speed.

The ministry publishes data on mobile network quality biannually to encourage network investment by mobile carriers.

South Korea commercialized 5G in April 2019 and has built up a significant 5G user base of nearly 11 million as of end-November, around 15 percent of the country’s total 70 million mobile subscriptions.

The network, however, has faced quality issues, such as limited coverage and slower-than-expected speeds, prompting more than half a million 5G users to switch to 4G LTE through August this year, according to Rep. Hong Jung-min of the ruling Democratic Party.

The latest report found that the network’s quality and accessibility improved compared to the first half of the year.

Users could stably connect to the latest generation network on average 90.99 percent of the time in public locations equipped with 5G, compared to 67.93 percent of the time in the first half of the year.

Devices also switched to 4G LTE from 5G during downloads 5.49 percent of the time on average compared to 6.19 percent in the first half of the year.

Average 5G latency, however, stood at 30.62 milliseconds, similar to 34.59 milliseconds on 4G LTE, according to the report.

Hong Jin-bae, director general of the ICT ministry’s telecommunications policy bureau, said in a briefing that the relatively high latency on 5G is likely due to South Korea’s use of non-standalone 5G, which requires support from 4G LTE.

“We are encouraging mobile carriers to transition to standalone 5G, and while they have yet to make announcements, we understand that such plans are making progress,” Hong said.

Coverage for the latest generation network grew as the number of subway stations across the country equipped with 5G network by the three carriers rose to 424 on average as of November, compared to 313 in July.

The report also found that public facilities, such as malls, theaters and hospitals, which had 5G coverage by the three carriers reached 3,486 on average across 85 cities.

South Korea is aiming for nationwide 5G coverage by 2022, and the three major carriers have promised to spend up to 25.7 trillion won (US$24 billion) in total to update network infrastructure by that year.

Meanwhile, South Korea has the fastest 5G download speed in the world, reaching over 350 Mbps, a report from Opensignal said recently.

5G download speed stood at an average 351.2 Mbps, followed by Saudi Arabia at 272.8 Mbps and Taiwan at 247.7 Mbps, Opensignal said.