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Faced with the prospect of developing several separate 5G networks with patchwork coverage, South Korea’s top cellular carriers have instead decided to collaborate on a single nationwide 5G infrastructure, BusinessKorea and Yonhap report. The plan is estimated to save the companies $938 million over 10 years, with the goal of enabling South Korea to “lead the fourth industrial revolution and to support the early commercialisation of 5G technology.”

According to the reports, the South Korean government is coordinating the effort, which will bring mobile companies KT, LG U+, and SK Telecom together with SK Broadband to share everything from antenna mounts to manholes and conduits. Additionally, the Korea Information Society Development Institute will develop pricing models for the carriers.

Historically, carriers across the world have developed their own national or regional cellular networks, though governments in certain countries have occasionally stepped in to coordinate or entirely nationalize network development. In this case, South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT deemed cooperation necessary because the number of 5G “small cell” base stations is expected to be between 4 and 18 times the number of larger 4G base stations, potentially leading to redundant investments.

To aid the carriers, “17 local governments and national facility management agencies” will provide equipment to facilitate the installation of wireless and cable gear within street lights and transportation structures. The carriers are now working to determine how much each will contribute to the construction effort, with plans to finalize those details during the first half of this year.

Before this announcement, South Korean carriers planned to launch 5G networks as early as 2019, though security concerns were impacting networking hardware selections. It’s unclear whether their collaboration will speed up that timetable.


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