South Korea

5G User Experience Report
December 2020

Opensignal is the independent global standard for analyzing consumer mobile experience. Our industry reports are the definitive guide to understanding the true experience consumers receive on wireless networks.

Author
Ian Fogg VP Analysis

Key findings

SK telecom wins the 5G Download Speed award with 361.4 Mbps

The average real-world 5G Download Speed our SK telecom users saw was a stunning 361.4 Mbps as SK telecom took our 5G speed crown from our last winner LG U+. However, users' average 5G speeds on LG U+ were only very slightly slower at 344.7 Mbps, similar to KT's 338.5 Mbps. Opensignal's 5G mobile measures represent the typical real-world user experience taking into account all of the locations and times where smartphone users connect to mobile services.

LG U+ jointly wins the 5G Availability award with SK telecom

Very fast 5G speeds alone are only part of the story. How often smartphone users are able to connect to 5G services and are able to enjoy those speeds is equally important. Opensignal reveals that SK telecom and LG U+ users are able to connect to 5G almost one quarter of the time with average 5G Availability scores of 24.7% and 23.9% which is a statistical tie. KT's users are fractionally behind with a 5G Availability of 21.0%.

5G users see the fastest overall download speed on SK telecom

The average overall speed of those Koreans with both a 5G handset and a 5G tariff was highest on SK telecom with a score of 204.8 Mbps. Download Speed Experience – 5G Users takes into account the speed 5G users see on both 4G and 5G, as well as the time users spend connected to each technology generation, to calculate the typical overall speed of 5G users. KT and LG U+ tie for second place with average scores of 180.9 Mbps and 177.6 Mbps.

Smartphone users enjoy a massively improved mobile experience on all three operators

Whichever operator South Korea's 5G users connect to, the experience is considerably faster than the 4G experience. On each measure, the gap in 5G experience between each operator is also much smaller than the gap between the 4G and 5G experience which helps explain why so many South Korean users have adopted 5G services.

Introduction

South Korea continues to be the leading country in 5G adoption globally with millions of mobile users enjoying blisteringly fast 5G services that are widely available. At the end of September, 5G subscribers represented 13.2% of all mobile subscriptions in South Korea — a higher share than in any other country — according to the Ministry of Science and ICT. There were 9.25 million 5G subscribers which was up over half a million in just one month.

In Opensignal's second report into the national 5G mobile network experience in South Korea we again see the impressive jump in experience that 5G is able to deliver when this latest technology is paired with brand new high capacity wireless spectrum. Like most countries globally, South Korea's operators have used new mid-band 5G spectrum with which to launch initial 5G services based on the fruits of a spectrum auction in 2018. In the auction, Sk telecom and KT both acquired 100 Mhz of mid-band spectrum while LG U+ acquired 80Mhz. In addition, all three operators acquired 800Mhz of 28Ghz mmWave spectrum, which offers the promise of even faster 5G speeds in future.

All three operators have trialled 5G services using mmWave spectrum. In September 2020, SK telecom confirmed it planned to launch mmWave-based 5G services before the end of 2020 using its 28Ghz band. However, as Opensignal has seen in other countries, while mmWave offers extraordinary speeds its range is limited and users need to ensure their 5G smartphone has the additional antenna needed to connect to mmWave frequencies. As mmWave services roll out across South Korea, Opensignal will analyze how it changes the mobile experience of the country's 5G Users.

Opensignal Awards Table

5G Mobile Experience Awards, South Korea
December 2020, South Korea Report
5G Download Speed
5G Availability
Download Speed Experience – 5G Users
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Mobile Experience Awards Winners
December 2020, South Korea
5G Download Speed
Download Speed Experience – 5G Users
Mobile Experience Awards Draws
December 2020, South Korea
5G Availability
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Overview

Click on metric labels below for a quick preview
5G Download Speed
in Mbps
SK telecom
361.4
LG U+
344.7
KT
338.5
0 91.25 182.5 273.75 365
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image

National Analysis

5G Download Speed

Opensignal's users saw average 5G Download speed range from 338.5 Mbps on KT to 361.4 Mbps. These results indicate the real-world 5G speeds where our users had an active 5G connection. The results include tests across all locations where smartphone users spend their time, indoors or outdoors, at work or at home, in locations with strong 5G signal and also those with a weaker 5G signal where speeds will likely be slower as a result.

Opensignal's 5G results represent the end-to-end experience of users. We tested 5G Download Speed to the typical content delivery networks used to host popular mobile apps and websites.

5G Download Speed
in Mbps
SK telecom
361.4
LG U+
344.7
KT
338.5
0 91.25 182.5 273.75 365
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image

The 5G Download Speeds we see in South Korea are many times faster than typical 4G speeds which is impressive given 5G technology is still near the start of a 10 year cycle of improvement. Noticeably, we are yet to see the impact of the sizable amount of mmWave spectrum that all three South Korean operators hold. As each operator launches this type of 5G, we will likely see peak speeds rise in the downtown locations where mmWave will likely be offered first.

5G Availability

The wide availability of 5G services also places South Korea's operators among global 5G leaders. On all three operators our users spent over one fifth of their time connected to 5G service.

While SK telecom and LG U+ jointly won the 5G Availability award with statistically tied scores of 24.7% of time and 23.9% respectively, KT was only just behind with 21.0%. Opensignal's 5G Availability compares the amount of time 5G users spend connected to 5G — the higher the percentage, the more time users on a network are connected to 5G.

5G Availability
in %
SK telecom
24.7
LG U+
23.9
KT
21.0
0 6.25 12.5 18.75 25
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image

Download Speed Experience – 5G Users

When a user upgrades to a 5G-capable smartphone using an operator's 5G price plan, they will want to be able to experience the fastest 5G connection speed. Opensignal's 5G Download Speed award compares the part of their mobile experience where they are connected to 5G.

However, it is just as important to understand the overall speed experience that a 5G enjoys because they spend some of their time connected to 4G and, for now, a minority of time connected to a 5G service. This is what our Download Speed Experience – 5G Users measures. It takes into account the average 4G Download Speed that 5G users see, as well as their average 5G Download Speed and time connected to each type of network to reveal the overall download speed experience.

On this important measure, which reflects the complete download speed of 5G users, SK telecom wins the award with a score of 204.8 Mbps. KT and LG U+ tie for second place in Download Speed Experience – 5G Users with scores of 180.9 Mbps and 177.6 Mbps respectively. Again, this is a staggering average download speed for South Korean users to enjoy, especially at so early a time within the 5G era.

Download Speed Experience – 5G Users
in Mbps
SK telecom
204.8
LG U+
180.9
KT
177.6
0 51.25 102.5 153.75 205
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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Regional Analysis

We also analyzed the 5G experience across four of South Korea's major cities.

In Seoul, the capital, we found the contests were all extremely close between LG U+ and SK telecom with the two operators jointly winning all our 5G awards. For 5G Download Speed, users on the two winning operators saw speeds over 20 Mbps faster than those experienced by KT users. All three operators saw users spend over 30% of time connected to 5G services indicating the wide extent of 5G services in the city.

Incheon users saw a similar result for 5G Download and Download Speed Experience – 5G Users with a joint win for SK telecom and LG U+. But on 5G Availability, Sk telecom pulled clear to win the award outright.

In southern metropolis Busan, SK telecom again won 5G Download Speed outright but the Download Speed Experience – 5G Users award was jointly won this time by KT and SK telecom. There was nothing to choose between the three operators for 5G Availability.

Select any region or city below to display individual breakdown

Busan

5G Download Speed
in Busan
in Mbps
KT
326.0
LG U+
303.7
SK telecom
362.7
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5G Availability
in Busan
in %
KT
26.4
LG U+
24.9
SK telecom
27.8
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Download Speed Experience – 5G Users
in Busan
in Mbps
KT
176.5
LG U+
156.8
SK telecom
195.7
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Incheon

5G Download Speed
in Incheon
in Mbps
SK telecom
360.1
LG U+
363.6
KT
307.3
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5G Availability
in Incheon
in %
SK telecom
33.8
LG U+
27.1
KT
25.8
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Download Speed Experience – 5G Users
in Incheon
in Mbps
SK telecom
209.3
LG U+
193.0
KT
174.3
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Seoul

5G Download Speed
in Seoul
in Mbps
SK telecom
368.8
LG U+
376.7
KT
346.9
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5G Availability
in Seoul
in %
SK telecom
34.0
LG U+
33.0
KT
30.7
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Download Speed Experience – 5G Users
in Seoul
in Mbps
SK telecom
245.2
LG U+
227.2
KT
203.8
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Suwon

5G Download Speed
in Suwon
in Mbps
LG U+
368.9
KT
328.0
SK telecom
342.2
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5G Availability
in Suwon
in %
LG U+
29.6
KT
31.3
SK telecom
35.1
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Download Speed Experience – 5G Users
in Suwon
in Mbps
LG U+
198.4
KT
183.0
SK telecom
212.1
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Learn more

Opensignal measures the real-world experience of consumers on mobile networks in the places they live, work and travel.

We continually adapt our methodology to best represent the true experience of smartphone users. Therefore, comparisons of the results to past reports should be considered indicative only.

For every metric we calculate statistical confidence intervals indicated on our graphs. When confidence intervals overlap, our measured results are too close to declare a winner. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple winners.

In our bar graphs we represent confidence intervals as boundaries on either sides of graph bars. In our supporting-metric charts we show confidence intervals as +/- numerical values.

More about Methodology

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For every metric we calculate statistical confidence intervals indicated on our graphs. When confidence intervals overlap, our measured results are too close to declare a winner. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple operator winners.

In our bar graphs we represent confidence intervals as boundaries on either sides of graph bars.

In our supporting-metric charts we show confidence intervals as +/- numerical values.

Why confidence intervals are vital in analyzing mobile network experience

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