5G pricing and technology lessons from South Korea

South Korea will become the first country to launch 5G mobile services on Friday when SK Telecom customers will access 5G network on Samsung Electronics’ 5G smartphone Galaxy S10 in Seoul.
SK Telecom 5G goes live on Samsung phones
5G smartphone customers in Korea will be able to access high-speed 5G network at a lower cost as compared with their 4G or LTE plans. This is due to the strategy of SK Telecom to lead the 5G market in South Korea.

The largest operator expects about 1 million 5G customers by end-2019. It has a total of 27 million users. But the achievement will depend on the price of Galaxy S10, the first 5G phone in the world.

China Mobile and rivals will be launching 5G services in 2020 only. India will be aiming for 5G in 2020.

Verizon Wireless earlier announced its plans to launch its 5G network in two cities in the United States on April 11.

Pricing strategy

SK Telecom showed off K-pop stars and an Olympic gold medalist as its first 5G customers – targeting to attract the youth population. There is no focus on enterprises at present though its 5G network will support several use cases.

SK Telecom’s 5GX service is available under four different plans.

Slim offers 8GB of data at KRW 55,000 per month and 5GX Standard comes with 150GB of data at KRW 75,000 per month. The Slim plan offers 1Mbps speed after data cap, while 5GX Standard comes with 5Mbps after data cap.

5GX Prime will cost KRW 89,000 and 5GX Platinum will be able priced at KRW 125,000 per month until the end of June 2019. 5GX Prime and 5GX Platinum will be offered without any data and speed restrictions.

Without this promotion, 5GX Prime will offer 200GB of data at KRW 95,000 per month, and 5GX Platinum will provide 300 GB of data at KRW 125,000 per month. Unlimited data will be provided until the end of December 2019.

5GX 75, which provides 150GB of monthly data allowance, costs KRW 4,000 less than T Plan Family (LTE plan) priced at KRW 79,000 per month.
SK Telecom 5G launch in Korea in April 2019

Superior technology

SK Telecom’s 5G network supports up to 2.7Gbps data transmission speed. 5G users on other networks take more than one minute to download a 12GB VR content via 5G network alone. SK Telecom’s 5G customers take only 36 seconds to download the same content over SK Telecom’s 4G-5G aggregated network.

SK Telecom is working with its memory-chip making affiliate SK Hynix to build a highly digitized and connected factory powered by 5G technology, Reuters reported.

Smaller rival KT is set to offer cheaper plans than its LTE service, with unlimited data and 4-year installments to buy 5G devices.

Smaller local rival LG Electronics plans to release its 5G smartphone in South Korea later this month.

SK Telecom uses advanced technology to block eavesdropping or hacking into 5G networks.

SK Telecom and KT do not use Huawei equipment for 5G. Smaller carrier LG Uplus uses Huawei gear.

SK Telecom officials said there will be an auction for network equipment makers including Huawei if South Korea needs more base stations for higher frequencies.

5G investment

SK Telecom, which has the widest 5G network coverage, has built 34,000 units of 5G base stations in the country.

The company’s 5G network is available in 85 cities nationwide. SK Telecom’s 5G network has ensured in-building coverage in 120 department stores, shopping malls and airports. SK Telecom provides four times faster in-building data rates than its competitors by utilizing four antennas of a smartphone.

SK Telecom will expand 5G network coverage to nationwide subways, national parks and festival sites — in the second half of 2019.

SK Telecom’s 5G network is designed to flawlessly support services that require ultra-low latency such as smart factory and autonomous driving. But its plans are mainly aimed at attracting 5G smartphone buyers.

Baburajan K