OMDIA: South Korea is 5G market leader amongst 22 countries

Market research firm  OMDIA – formerly known as Ovum (including IHS-Markit IT acquisition) – has released the first version of its 5G Market Progress Assessment (end-2019) report, showing that South Korea is the undisputed leading country for 5G deployment in the twenty two leading 5G countries analyzed for their deployment of 5G technology.

The OMDIA research assessed the deployment progress of 5G based on operator launches, network coverage, subscriber take-up as well as 5G spectrum availability and regulatory ecosystem.

Based on these factors OMDIA’s research concluded that South Korea – as it did in the 4G era – has established itself as the early market-leader for 5G technology deployment.  South Korea, Kuwait, and Switzerland are among a small group of markets notable for 5G coverage exceeding 50% of their subscriber base.

According to the report, South Korea is leading the way with adoption reaching 4.67 million subscribers at the end of December, which equates to about seven per cent of wireless services in the market.  That number is now over 6 million as we reported in this article.

The rankings used a relative assessment, effectively assigning South Korea a score of 100% for the September quarter due to its global leadership across all five of the assessment criteria:

  • Spectrum – 2,680 MHz across the 3.5 and 28 GHz bands
  • Service launches – all three Korean service providers have commercial offerings available to the mass market, and MVNO services have been launched
  • Network coverage – approximately 90% population coverage
  • 5G take-up – 4.67 million 5G subscribers, or 7% of the mobile market
  • Ecosystem – Strong government support and leading local vendor ecosystem

South Korea has exceeded expectations in each of the above criteria, a trend which should continue over the next few years in light of the government’s intention to make a further 2,640 MHz of bandwidth available for 5G networks by 2026.

Editor’s Note:  South Korea’s IMT 2020 RIT submission (see Document IMT-2020/25) is being progressed by ITU-R WP5D, even though an ATIS sponsored evaluation group [ATIS WTSC IMT-2020 Independent Evaluation Group (IEG)] found that it is technically identical to the 3GPP submission.


“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 report is based on data relating to the end-December period and was originally due for publication in mid-March but was delayed because of the impact of COVID-19.

Omdia Principal Analyst Stephen Myers said:

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 full 5G Market Progress Assessment, end-2019 report can be purchased from OMDIA by contacting [email protected].



South Korea 5G subscribers top 6 million at end of April 2020

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One thought on “OMDIA: South Korea is 5G market leader amongst 22 countries

  1. Light Reading: 5G still a technology looking for a purpose

    18 months into the commercial deployment of 5G, the returns are paltry.

    The two big South Korean operators, SKT and KT, have if anything gone backwards. The latest filings reveal all the key financial data are flat or declining. Likewise the Chinese telcos.

    Unlike early 3G or 4G, we can’t blame this on devices. China has around 100 different handsets available with some of the price bundles costing as little as 100 yuan ($15.11).

    China has raced to around 200 million 5G “package” subscribers, which, even though it overstates the real total, points to how smoothly 5G deployment has gone compared with previous generations.

    Yet for all that, it’s still a technology looking for a purpose. No wonder Chinese operators are selling it on price.

    The non-progress of 5G is attracting some desperate commentary in China, where it’s seen as a matter of national pride, not to mention some $30 billion in sunk costs.

    So far, 5G just hasn’t created any excitement. There are no game-changing new apps or devices. They will come eventually, just as the iPhone arrived to drive traffic onto 3G networks.

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