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Key Drivers for Korea’s 5G Success: Exploring Compelling 5G Services

Samsung introduced a multi-part series highlighting 5G’s successful evolution in South Korea. In this article, Seungil Kim, Head of Korea Business, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics, discusses the mobile operator 5G strategies in South Korea, as well as business use cases in key verticals.

What are the key drivers behind 5G success in Korea?

We have seen the number of 5G subscribers reach 14% of the total population in Korea within just 14 months of launch.1 Not only is the subscriber base growing but 5G users are also consuming about 28% of the total mobile data traffic.2 5G has certainly opened doors to new possibilities. I believe the success in Korea can be attributed to the Korean operators’ strategic approaches in introducing innovative 5G services. Operators are offering compelling B2C services, as well as industry-wide B2B use cases, which are creating momentum and convincing subscribers and enterprises to choose 5G.

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Consumer Use Cases

Operators are continuing to look for new services that can help consumers experience the benefits of 5G in daily life. The initial 5G services introduced by Korean operators focused on enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) such as UHD video, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). Most of these services were offered free of charge to 5G subscribers to help generate interest.
The main verticals introduced to consumers were around sports, gaming, entertainment, education and virtual communications. The chart below provides a deeper dive into the 5G experience offered to consumers in each industry.

Enterprise Use Cases

There is a lot of opportunity for the operators when delivering 5G to the B2B sector. B2B and B2B2X business models can bring various applications to life, ranging across many industries, ultimately generating huge returns on operators’ 4G and 5G investments.
Some of the B2B services that are currently available in Korea include:
Smart Factory

Smart Factory Smart factory is a notable example that demonstrates how 5G’s low latency, connectivity and high speed will enable many benefits for this industry. With 5G, real-time detection of defects based on AI and wireless robot control help improve operational productivity, and are just two examples.
Smart factory is a notable example that demonstrates how 5G’s low latency, connectivity and high speed will enable many benefits for this industry. With 5G, real-time detection of defects based on AI and wireless robot control help improve operational productivity, and are just two examples.

Smart Office
SK Telecom introduced a smart office system that enables flexible “work-from-anywhere” capabilities. 5G smart offices have a ‘5G walk-through’ system, which allows entry without ID cards via AI-based facial recognition and a mobile VDI docking system. Employees can choose to work from a smart office closer to home to save on commute time and raise convenience.SK Telecom introduced a smart office system that enables flexible “work-from-anywhere” capabilities. 5G smart offices have a ‘5G walk-through’ system, which allows entry without ID cards via AI-based facial recognition and a mobile VDI docking system. Employees can choose to work from a smart office closer to home to save on commute time and raise convenience.

Public Safety

With 5G, first responders can effectively and instantaneously exchange multi-media such as high-resolution images and live videos for emergency responses. With a reliable 5G network, public safety agencies can take advantage of robust, real-time surveillance communication technologies.

Distinctive 5G Service Strategies by Korean Operators

All three operators took a similar approach to attract 5G subscribers by offering unlimited data plans at a very competitive rate, in comparison to 4G data plans. As a result, about 70-80% of the subscribers chose the 5G unlimited plan option according to the Korean operators, which allowed them to take advantage of the wide range of services exclusively offered to the 5G users.

※ This is a case of one operator in Korea (1$ = 1,100 Won)
※ This is a case of one operator in Korea (1$ = 1,100 Won)

They also took a distinctive approach in introducing new 5G services. Their goal was to deliver the best consumer experience to end users. Each Korea operator’s strategy is explored below:

SKT: 5G Clusters Create the Choice and Focus Strategy
SK Telecom created 5G clusters, which are focused zones where subscribers can experience the real benefits of 5G, such as high-speed mobile connectivity, new applications and other 5G membership benefits. In 2019, SK Telecom created 70 5G clusters mainly in densely populated areas, transportation hubs and college campus districts, and is planning to increase the number of 5G clusters to 200 by the end of this year.
In the early days of 5G, these clusters such as key shopping districts, university areas, bus and train terminals and airports, created focused areas of “choice” for 5G with the goal of generating market interest to attract subscribers.

KT: B2B-Focused Strategy
With 5G commercialization, KT announced that it would focus its 5G services in the B2B vertical, in which they have already experienced various successful use cases. KT has signed strategic business agreements to implement 5G in various B2B sectors such as smart factories, autonomous driving, smart medical services and digital media. By the end of 2019, KT had introduced 150 B2B use cases and secured 53 5G enterprise clients.
Industry experts predict that KT’s 5G network will take over as the primary communication fabric for the B2B market, supplemented by its nationwide wired networks. While network reliability is particularly important in the B2B sector, its wireless network, backed by the wired network, will ensure stability and reliability for the businesses.

LG U+: Step-By-Step 5G Service Roadmap Strategy
LG U+ took a step-by-step approach to introduce 5G services in multiple phases.
Initially in the first phase, the service was branded U+ 5G 1.0, and the operator added 5G features to its existing 4G services. In June 2019, LG U+ launched U+ 5G 2.0, where it introduced new 5G-only services, expanding into gaming and entertainment. In 2020, LG U+ launched U+ 5G 3.0 services by integrating cloud services into 5G within various sectors, including education. Many of these U+ 5G services have been upgraded to include AR and VR capabilities as well.

With network technology’s evolution accelerating, 5G is transforming everyday life and industry. Korea’s 5G success is one early example of how this technology can bring new experiences to life today. Samsung’s expertise in combining 5G with other emerging technologies, such as AI, Cloud, VR and AR played a key role in creating the foundation necessary to bring next-level 5G services to life.
Learning from our successes in Korea, we look forward to ongoing collaboration with global operators to enrich the 5G journey and improve the way we live, work and communicate around the world.

Read more on Samsung’s whitepaper that explores new 5G services in Korea and beyond: Transforming Everyday Life and Industry with 5G.

1 South Korea Ministry of Science and ICT, June 2020
2 South Korea Ministry of Science and ICT, June 2020

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