South Korea’s three major mobile carriers will put aside rivalry and share 5G base stations in smaller administrative districts across the country to save costs and upgrade coverage quality.
According to the government and industry sources on Tuesday, SK Telecom, KT, and LG Plus will set up a consultative body for their cooperation in the deployment of 5G infrastructure spanning a number of smaller administrative units and rural villages and discuss detailed action plans with the Ministry of Science and ICT.
A ministry official said the combined average of small towns and districts with population of less than 5,000 nationwide accounts for 47 percent of South Korea and the latest decision was made to better serve 5G users in these areas.
Earlier, the three telcos announced a 25 trillion won ($20.9 billion) investment plan to complete nationwide 5G coverage by the first half of 2022 as part of the government’s Digital New Deal program.
[Graphics by Minu Kim and Song Ji-yoon]
The extraordinary cooperation between the fiercely competing telecos aims to save costs caused by 5G frequency that has a shorter reach than LTE (4G), meaning base stations must be built more closely.
The number of 5G base stations required in the 3.5GHz band is at least as twice as that of LTE base stations. Currently, the number of 5G base stations installed nationwide is only 121,000.
The three telcos will jointly install 5G base stations in the outskirts of urban areas and spend the savings on investment into Seoul and six other metropolitan areas where data consumption is high.
Some foreign telcos are already joining hands in building their 5G coverage across the country.
In April, Japan’s No. 2 and 3 telcos KDDI and Softbank launched 5G JAPAN to reduce time and costs in the establishment of 5G base stations in rural areas. Four companies in Vietnam also agreed to share their 1,200 5G base stations.
By Lim Young-sin and Minu Kim
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