South Korea marks over 5 million 5G subscribers

South Korea had 5.36 million subscribers that use a 5G smartphone as of February.

South Korea has accrued over 5 million subscribers of 5G, having reached the milestone 11 months after its 5G networks were commercialised.

According to the Ministry of Science and ICT, the country has 5.36 million 5G subscribers as of February, an increase of 8.1% from the previous month's 4.95 million figure.

South Korea officially started 5G services on April 3 last year.

The country secured around 4 million subscribers in October last year, but subscription rates have since slowed due to the lack of new 5G smartphones and consumer complaints over the quality of networks.

The launch of Samsung's Galaxy S20 series in February, however, has provided an uptick in 5G subscriber numbers. All three models of the phone support 5G connectivity.

The country's three telcos -- SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus -- invested a total of 8.78 trillion won last year in 5G infrastructure.

They were initially slated to invest 2.7 trillion for the first half of this year, but the South Korean government said on Tuesday that this would be increased to 4 trillion won to expand coverage for indoor areas and regions outside of Seoul. 

So far, only 3.5GHz non-standalone (NSA) networks have been commercialised, but the telcos have plans to deploy mmWave standalone networks within the year. 

The government is also pressuring telcos to introduce more affordable 5G data plans. The cheapest data plan for 5G in the country currently stands at 55,000 won (around $45) per month, but telcos have so far resisted the government's requests, saying it is too early to lower prices due to the high amount of capital spend in building networks.

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