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South Korea is still the world 5G leader

(Image credit: Pixabay )

South Korea is the most developed 5G nation in the world but the UK is a strong sixth, according to research from OMIDA.

Analysts ranked countries according to progress on key 5G metrics. These included the availability of spectrum, the number of network launches, coverage, adoption and ecosystem. The latter criterion includes a range of factors such as regulatory environment, vendor support and development.

The report takes into account the period until December 2019 and was due to be released in March but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

UK 5G leadership

South Korea achieved a score of 100 per cent with all other countries given scores relative to that figure. All three major Korean operators have launched 5G, with coverage now at 90 per cent of population and a subscriber base of 4.67 million – accounting for 7 per cent of the market.

Meanwhile, 2,680MHz of 3.5GHz and 28GHz spectrum has been made available, while there is strong government support and a leading local vendor ecosystem boosted by the presence of Samsung and others.

Kuwait, Switzerland, the US and Qatar made up the rest of the top five, largely thanks to the wide availability of coverage. The US, for example, lagged behind in terms of adoption.

“Limited coverage, device availability and cautious launches has limited take-up in other global markets,” said Stephen Myers, OMDIA Principal Analyst. “However, expansive coverage rolled out by Sunrise and Swisscom in Switzerland, Ooredoo and Vodafone in Qatar and Kuwait’s three service providers has rivalled Korea for breadth of market coverage.

“The global market is steadily gearing up for 5G deployment but right now South Korea is leading the way – although markets like Switzerland have also made steady progress.

“Across the world we are seeing governments and regulators fine-tuning their 5G spectrum allocations and operators get ready for their 5G launches and expand network coverage in those countries where 5G has already launched.

“We can expect to see a much larger number of commercial 5G launches in major global markets in the next 12-18 months as more spectrum is released across the world.”

The UK’s position as a 5G leader marks a dramatic reversal from 4G when it lagged behind the rest of Europe. EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have all launched commercial services, while the government has offered its support to a rapid rollout. A strong startup ecosystem has also contributed.

There had been concerns that Covid-19 could hinder the global development of 5G, not least that an economic slowdown would limit adoption and investment. However recent forecasts suggest that although there might be a short-term impact on the market, strong momentum within China and a global recovery will ensure there are 1 billion 5G subscribers globally by 2022.