Ericsson secured its place as a key 5G network equipment supplier in South Korea after one of the country’s three mobile operators, KT, awarded a commercial 5G contract to the Sweden-based vendor.
KT had already chosen Ericsson as well as Nokia and Samsung Electronics as its 5G equipment partners, and Ericsson hailed the signing of the initial commercial contract as an important step towards the rollout of live mobile 5G services. The vendor said it is providing 3GPP standards-based 5G new radio (NR) hardware and software to cover KT’s 3.5 GHz non-standalone (NSA) network.
KT and rivals LG UPlus and SK Telecom (SKT) were among the first operators in the world to launch commercial 5G networks in December 2018, initially targeting enterprise customers. They now plan to launch 5G services nationwide starting in April, maintaining a close collaboration on the timing of their respective network rollouts as the first 5G smartphones come onto the market from Samsung and LG.
The original launch date has been pushed back slightly from the first quarter of 2019 — reportedly to ensure that 5G smartphones would be available from launch. The Korea Herald also reported that the government rejected SKT’s original pricing plan for 5G services, saying it was too expensive and could restrict consumer choice.
Samsung is now expected to start selling the Galaxy S10 5G beginning April 5. That means the battle is now on to become the first provider of mobile 5G services that actually support smartphones. If the Korean operators are able to launch services on April 5, they will beat Verizon by a matter of days: the US operator is preparing to go live with its mobile 5G network on April 11.
In terms of the vendors being used by the other operators: SKT has maintained a close collaboration with Samsung while also working with Ericsson and Nokia, and LG Uplus has been using 5G network equipment from Huawei. Indeed, LG Uplus and Huawei said during MWC19 Barcelona that they had completed more than 10,000 base stations across South Korea.
KT also recently selected Oracle’s 5G policy control function (PCF) platform to support its 5G network deployment. The platform will allow the operator to construct use cases using network slicing to drive new business opportunities.