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SK Telecom celebrates 5G first birthday with almost half of local market

Since launching the world’s first 5G service on 3 April 2019, the Korean operator continues to maintain its leadership in the local mobile market

Since launching the world’s first 5G service on 3 April 2019, SK Telecom has revealed not only that it has gained a 44.7% 5G market share, but outlined its plans to take 5G technology into what it believes will be potentially lucrative use cases.

The market share data is based on statistics from the Korean Ministry of Science and ICT released in January 2020, and represents 2.22 million 5G subscribers for SK Telecom. According to SK Telecom’s analysis on 5G subscribers, people in their 30s and 40s are taking up 53% of the company’s total 5G subscriber base, which is significantly higher than the proportion of people in their 30s and 40s in total LTE subscriber base, which currently stands at 32%.

The total amount of data consumption of SK Telecom’s 5G subscribers reached 62,000 TB on average per month over the past three months from December 2019 to February 2020. During the same period, the average monthly data usage of subscribers who switched devices from LTE to 5G has increased roughly twofold, from 14.5 GB (LTE) to 28.5 GB (5G) per person.

SK Telecom’s 5G subscribers were also found to be using media services, which generally require greater speeds and bandwidths, much more actively than LTE subscribers. As of February 2020, 5G subscribers were using seven times more virtual reality services, 3.6 times more video steaming services and 2.7 times more game apps than LTE subscribers.

As it was increasing its subscriber base over the past year, the company was also expanding its business to new areas by using its strength in 5G. In the time frame, SK Telecom say that it also increased customers’ 5G experience and acceptance by creating around 70 5G clusters in key commercial districts and densely populated areas throughout the nation.

The clusters are built with more base stations than other 5G coverage areas to offer an optimal 5G environment for services such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). To date, around a million customers have visited these 5G clusters to experience differentiated 5G services, including Jump AR Zoo and 5G LoL Park.

In 2020, the total number of its 5G clusters will be brought to 240 and expand 5G coverage to neighbourhoods of 85 cities across South Korea by working closely with telecommunications equipment manufacturers.

Read more about SK Telecom and 5G

With its established 5G base, SK Telecom has expanded into new business areas. The company is cooperating with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services in the area of cloud and has ventured into the US next-generation broadcasting (ATSC 3.0) market with Sinclair Broadcast Group. SK Telecom also shared its experience and knowhow in 5G with other mobile operators across the globe including Deutsche Telekom, Taiwan Mobile and IT&E.

Going forward, SK Telecom aims to earn the title of the world’s best 5G service provider through hyper-collaboration with global companies. The company plans to release mobile device applied with quantum cryptography technologies and provide security solutions to 5G users.

SK Telecom is focusing on enterprise business in full scale by marking 2020 as the first year of its B2B business. To this end, it says that it will work closely with companies of industries to serve as a catalyst for industrial innovations in Korea. SK Telecom plans to build 5G mobile edge computing (MEC) centres in 12 different locations across Korea to lead a cloud-driven industrial revolution.

The company is also preparing to launch nationwide 5G edge cloud service by working with global leading cloud companies such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft. 5G edge cloud, once commercialised, is designated for use in ultra-low latency connectivity services like unmanned delivery robots and telemedicine, with the intention of bringing unprecedented changes to all industries including manufacturing, distribution and healthcare.

Private 5G network

In a specific application, SK Telecom plans to deploy a private 5G network at SK Hynix’s semiconductor manufacturing facility to realise 5G smart factory that can lead to a super-cycle in the semiconductor industry.

The company is planning to add cutting-edge ICT including artificial intelligence video analytics and AR technology to its 5G network, and is also cooperating with Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) to realise a 5G smart power plant.

It will first upgrade its real-time drone monitoring systems for dams, remote water level monitoring and situation sharing by applying private 5G network and quantum cryptography technologies to KHNP’s hydro-electric and pumped storage power plant.

Furthermore, SK Telecom says it will continue to work closely with Seoul Metropolitan Government to accelerate the cooperative intelligent transportation system (C-ITS) project by applying Road Learner, which consists of its 5G advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) and Live HD Map Update offering.

5G ADAS and Live HD Map Update are key technologies for autonomous driving, as 5G ADAS improves safety through features including lane departure warnings and forward collision avoidance, and Live HD Map Update reflects road situations to HD maps in real time.

“SK Telecom was able to secure new business opportunities ahead of others by achieving the world’s first 5G commercialisation,” said Ryu Young-sang, vice-president and head of mobile network operator business at SK Telecom. “We are confident the 5G business models to be launched this year will drive the company’s growth over the next decade.”

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