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S. Korea to further expand 5G infrastructure

ICT Minister Choi Ki-young speaks during a meeting held at the government complex in Sejong, Tuesday. (Yonhap)
ICT Minister Choi Ki-young speaks during a meeting held at the government complex in Sejong, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea will increase the coverage of the next-generation mobile networks, dubbed as 5G, to 85 cities across the country this year, from the current seven major cities, the Ministry of Science and ICT said.

The ministry’s plan, unveiled Tuesday, also include an expanded support for local firms to transition to the ultra-fast networks, investments in research and development of mobile edge computing, a key component in driving the commercial use of 5G in areas such as virtual reality.

It also plans to allow non-telecommunications firms to operate private networks for their businesses as well.

A budget of 165.5 billion won has been set aside this year to help a wide range of sectors to utilize the benefits of the new network technology, including some 88 billion won on future mobility, 40 billion won on augmented and virtual reality-based entertainment content and 16 billion won for smart city projects.

The government will start providing network bandwidth to non-telecommunications firms in the first half of this year, allowing them to operate their own private networks. It will provide 600 megahertz of 5G bandwidth this year, it said.

According to the government’s survey, around 20 software developers and IT firms have expressed hopes to build their own 5G networks.

A private network is an enterprise-dedicated closed network that provides communication connections to people belonging to the specific enterprise.

Previously, only mobile carriers were able to customize and operate networks in South Korea.

To encourage uses of private 5G networks, the government will invest 127.9 billion won this year. Public sectors, such as harbor facilities and the defense sector, will be the first to use private 5G networks and customized solutions.

At the same time, the government will take the lead in development of mobile edge computing, also called the multi-access edge computing, which is a cloud-based technology that could reduce latency by bringing the computation and storage capabilities to the edge of the network.

Between 2020-22, the government is to invest 120 billion won in more than 15 projects dedicated to introduce MEC solutions to local firms and public sectors, including smart manufacturing, self-driving, telemedicine and disease control.

“The demand for MEC solutions will increase as 5G network-related technologies improve in the future,” the government said.

The global MEC market is expected to post an annual growth rate of 157.4 percent to reach at $72.4 billion, officials said, quoting market researcher Frost and Sullivan’s data.

Meanwhile, the ICT Ministry will also inject 52.5 billion won in supporting 5G equipment manufacturers to help them strengthen their technological prowess.

By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)
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