Mobile Network Providers Start to Narrow the Gap in Difference of Numbers of Base Stations in Metropolitan Areas and Rural Areas

Jun 19, 2019

Competition between SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus regarding setting up initial round of 5G network is becoming more intense. These three mobile network providers are setting up about 20,000 new base station equipment monthly on average. Based on this trend, it is estimated that they will set up more than 230,000 base station equipment this year.
According to ‘Ministry of Science and ICT’s current state of 5G base stations and 5G base station equipment of three mobile network providers as of the 22nd of May’ obtained by The Electronic Times, KT is currently in the lead.
It is also shown that a gap between numbers of base stations and their equipment in metropolitan areas and rural areas is starting to shrink significantly.
◊KT holding onto the early lead
This is the first time when an interim report on 5G base stations based on mobile network provider and region is made to the public. Ever since 5G was commercialized on the 3rd of April, Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) has made number of base stations and their equipment public every week or two weeks based on reports from mobile network providers.
5G base station is comprised of ‘base station (radio station)’, which is a place with power and optical cable connections for equipment installation, and ‘base station equipment’ that corresponds to actual network equipment. Base station equipment affects speed and quality of 5G network.
As of the 22nd of May, there were 59,446 5G base stations reported to MSIT. Out of these base stations, 21,775 of them belong to KT. LG Uplus and SK Telecom are responsible for 21,736 and 15,935 base stations respectively.
According to MSIT’s report, there were 133,601 base station equipment reported as of the 22nd of May. Out of this base station equipment, 63,041 of them belong to KT. SK Telecom and LG Uplus are responsible for 42,438 and 28,122 base station equipment respectively.
Although numbers of base stations of KT and LG Uplus are similar, it is shown that KT has double the amount of base station equipment than that of LG Uplus. On the other hand, while SK Telecom has 5,000 less base stations than that of LG Uplus, it has about 14,000 more base station equipment than that of LG Uplus. Compared to LTE generation when SK Telecom was undoubtedly the top mobile network provider, there is a clear change when it comes to 5G generation.

Mobile Network Providers Start to Narrow the Gap in Difference of Numbers of Base Stations in Metropolitan Areas and Rural Areas

◊Different network strategies between mobile network providers
These mobile network providers are having fierce competition. Although it is true that KT is in the lead based on MSIT’s report, SK Telecom and LG Uplus stated that MSIT needs to consider characteristics of equipment and inside strategies that have surfaced through numerical values.
On the other hand, KT explained that the reason why it is currently ranked first in both numbers of base stations and base station equipment is because it has pushed for differentiated 5G network quality through maximum manpower and resources to grab the upper hand in early 5G network coverage.
To maximize coverage, KT has focused on increasing number of amplifiers that are components of base station equipment. Based on MSIT’s rule, KT reported radio wave amplifiers that are additionally installed to base station equipment in suburb areas as separate base station equipment. As a result, it is shown that KT has the most base station equipment out of three mobile network providers.
SK Telecom explained that its 42,438 base station equipment is the most out of three mobile network providers. It stated that most of equipment has an antenna and an amplifier integrated due to characteristic of its network and that there is not much difference between its coverage and KT’s coverage. Actually, KT indicated that there are 40,874 base station equipment excluding the number of amplifiers on its homepage. Considering this number, SK Telecom explained that number of its actual base station equipment, coverage, and quality are either equal to or superior than that of KT.
LG Uplus explained that ‘network efficiency’ is the reason why it has such low number of base station equipment compared to the number of its base stations. Although it has set up many base stations, it installed base station equipment efficiency through optimal cell design.
◊Mobile network providers alleviate deviation in coverage based on location
Deviation in coverage based on location, which had caused a controversy during early phase of 5G network, has been resolved significantly.
Number of base stations in Seoul is 20,186 that are 34% of number of entire base stations in South Korea (59,446). When this number is added to the number of base stations in Gyeonggi-do (12,713), resulting number corresponds to 55.3%. As significant number of base stations is also reported in other metropolitan areas such as Busan (4,246, 7.1%), Incheon (3,840, 6.5%), and Daegu (3,442, 5.8%), number of base stations showed a tendency of mirroring number of populations in certain area.
It is shown that LG Uplus has benefited from speeding up the process of establishing local network. While it reported 13,958 base stations and 16,098 base station equipment by the end of the 15th of April, numbers of base stations and base station equipment doubled in just one month. Although there was a controversy when it installed tens of base stations in areas such as Gangwon and Jeonnam by the 15th of April, it reported more than 100 base stations and base station equipment in every region in May.
Mobile network providers have been installing about 20,000 base stations on average per month. It is estimated that they will install more than 130,000 base station equipment from now on until end of this year and have more than 270,000 base station equipment by end of this year. Meanwhile, MSIT suggested 230,000 base station equipment as a goal.
“There is currently little difference to amount of base stations and their equipment as mobile network providers are carrying out different methods when it comes to reporting number of base stations, going through approval procedure, and securing supplies.” said a representative for a mobile network provider. “However, the gap will start to shrink once our strategies start to stabilize and there is a possibility that there will be a change to current ranking.”
Staff Reporter Park, Jisung | jisung@etnews.com

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