Monday 22 March 2021

Wi-Fi and 5G Status in South Korea

Last year we reported on this blog that South Korean Ministry of Science and Technology Information and Communication is heavily promoting Wi-Fi 6, in 6GHz (a.k.a. Wi-Fi 6E). 

Back in February, South Korea's ICT ministry said that it has made over 15,000 new public Wi-Fi service zones available across the country and in buses last year, bringing the total locations with free public Wi-Fi to over 57,000. Yonhap News Agency revealed:

The Ministry of Science and ICT said the public can access free Wi-Fi in 28,132 public locations, such as bus stations, public facilities and parks, and also in 29,100 buses.

By region, there are 2,529 public Wi-Fi locations in Seoul, with 4,358 locations in the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, according to the ICT ministry.

South Korea has recently boosted efforts to expand public Wi-Fi zones that had previously been limited to indoor facilities, such as community centers and traditional markets.

The ICT ministry said it has focused on outdoor locations, installing free Wi-Fi at 7,949 bus stations, 1,286 parks and 320 major streets across the country from 2019 to 2020.

The ministry has also replaced 18,000 aging routers with the latest Wi-Fi 6 equipment, resulting in speeds that are three times faster on average.

The ministry said it plans to establish 15,000 additional public Wi-Fi zones this year.

You can see a video of one such Free WiFi on Bus event here.

Hackaday reported that the government has released the details of the 220,000 WiFi access points to the public. This includes the location, IP address, and RSSI data for use by people and companies wanting to develop location-based services.

Aju Business Daily said Geographical locations, internet protocol addresses and received signal strength indicators (RSSIs) have been collected for emergency response purposes and to pinpoint the location of an AP or to calculate the floating population. RSSI is an estimate of the strength of WiFi signal between an AP and recipient device.

In the mobile news,  Tefficient reported that 4G/LTE traffic has been going down as 5G traffic grows.  February 2019 was the last time monthly 4G traffic was so low (380 PB) in South Korea as it was in January 2021. 4G visibly in decline the past months while 5G traffic grew to 45% of total.

Also as you can see in the other tweet, South Korea's operators net added over 1 million 5G subscribers in January 2021 - the first month over 1 million since the 5G launch. 18% of total mobile subscriber base now 5G.

But not everyone is happy with 5G. The Korea Bizwire reported:

Hundreds of 5G smartphone users in South Korea are banding together to take legal action against the country’s three major telecom operators — SK Telecom Co., KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. — for spotty connection and the poor quality of the latest generation network, industry sources said Thursday.

As of Thursday, around 1,000 5G smartphone users have expressed intent to take part in the collective lawsuit to seek at least 1 million won (US$890) in compensation per user from the three mobile carriers over their 5G network quality that fall short of expectations, despite their costlier pay plans, according to Kim Jin-wook, a lawyer at law firm Joowon, which is spearheading the legal action.

Kim argues that 5G network quality is not a discernible improvement from previous 4G LTE networks and has drawbacks, such as limited availability.

The three telecom operators had deployed 166,250 5G base stations as of November last year, which is just 19 percent of the number of 4G base stations, according to industry tracker Opensignal.

South Korea’s 5G coverage centers around major urban areas, such as Seoul, with carriers aiming for nationwide coverage by next year.

Carriers also initially advertised 5G download speeds as being 20 times faster than 4G LTE, but a government report last year found that average 5G download speeds were around four times faster than those of 4G.

“Considering that monthly 5G plans are around 50,000 won more expensive than 4G LTE plans, we expect around 1 million won in compensation for users subscribed to two-year plans,” said Kim.

He added that the lawsuit will be filed in May after gathering more participants.

This may be the catalyst the Korean operators need to massively improve the 5G user experience for the end users.

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