The South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning on Monday announced a new fund meant to accelerate 5G deployment in the Far Eastern country, with the initiative specifically targeting technologies and projects that can allow for data rates of at least 10Gbps. The move is meant to serve as a prelude to more concentrated buildouts in South Korea which seek to allow access to next-generation networks to at least 50-percent of its territory by 2020, the ministry explained. The fund will initially allocate the equivalent of $880,000 to up to two companies or groups who pitch the best ideas for using that money to facilitate 5G deployment in the country, with the deadline for the applications being April 10.
It’s presently unclear whether Korea’s largest wireless carriers will be participating in the tender process, with all of them already having defined 5G plans and secured funding. SK Telecom-owned SK Broadband, KT, and LG Uplus are all scheduled to start experimental deployment in mid-2018, with all of them targeting 10Gbps speeds which should improve upon the performance of the existing 4G LTE solutions by a factor of ten. KT has already been trialing the new infrastructure and setups for over a year now, with the telecom giant’s pre-commercial testing starting as early as late 2016, a year before the 3GPP even managed to complete the world’s first implementable 5G standard. KT ended up contributing to the Release 15 specification and is now prepared to move forward with large-scale deployment in the near future, according to its recent statements on the matter.
Approximately 6.7 million South Korean nationals are already estimated to be using Gigabit Internet connections, with that figure amounting to over 13-percent of the country’s population. Seoul is presently Washington’s largest rival in the 5G race and may be the one that ends up winning it if the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t manage to hold a millimeter-wave spectrum auction by the end of the year. Large-scale 5G buildouts in Korea are expected to start by late 2018, whereas stateside national carriers are currently planning such projects to begin in early 2019.