May 1, 2019. Korea has pulled far ahead in 5G, by almost every measure. Half the country is covered with 5G, with 90% expected by the end of 2019. Korea Telecom has 100,000 subscribers and the country 260,000. The hope is for 10% of users will be on 5G by the end of 2019, four to five million. SKT projects 6-7M subscribers by the end of 2020. That would suggest the three carriers will have 8-10M subscribers in a year. It will be difficult to impossible for any other country to catch up until 2021 or later.
Takeaways: The government "suggested" the companies move quickly, effective industrial planning. KT CFO Kyung-Keun Yoon on its financial call said, "The investment into 5G is actually inevitable for us." I believe this pattern will be common: one company moves fast on 5G and the others feel they must match. Ericsson data is:
More than half in China, one-third in South Korea and one in four in the US and Australia will change either immediately or within six months should this be the case.
Ericsson wants to sell radios and is not an objective source, but all indications are that if 5G is offered at the same price as 4G, consumers will buy. I expect this will especially be true later this year when numerous 5G phones hit the market at about US$600.
Korea is deploying in 3.5 GHz, with an expected peak/laboratory speed of perhaps a gigabit. Consumer speeds should usually be 100-450 megabits down based on data from DT in Warsaw and Nikkei tests in Korea. Samsung is providing radios for KT & SKT; Huawei is servicing LG+. Nokia is behind schedule and is being replaced by Samsung in early plans. 54,000 base stations are active and the country is turning on 3,000 per week.
The only phone is a US$1300 Samsung Galaxy, but the LG phone is expected shortly. Consumers are complaining about service problems. I'm optimistic they will soon be solved, but everyone is watching.
Some government data.