Korean carrier KT expressed confidence in achieving the target of closing 2020 with 3.5 million 5G subscribers.
On an earnings call, CFO Yoon Kyung-keun said that the 5G subscribers goal would be achieved due to the launch of new 5G-enabled devices including the Galaxy Note and the iPhone.
KT added 459,000 5G subscribers during fiscal Q2, taking its total to 2.34 million, with penetration rate of 15.7%.
The executive also said that the planned rollout of its 5G network had been impacted by the pandemic. “COVID-19 had some impact on the speed of 5G coverage build-out, but we will continue to expand 5G coverage in the remaining second half, focusing on our shadow zones and underground subways,” Yoon said.
In the first half of the year, KT’s capex amounted to KRW967 billion ($815.6 million) versus its full year budget of KRW3.1 trillion.
Net profit grew 2.2%year-on-year in Q2 to KRW207.6 billion, while the carrier’s revenues amounted to KRW5.88 trillion, down 3.6% year-on-year.
Mobile service revenue reached KRW1.6 trillion flat year-on-year, while handset sales declined by 22.2% to KRW680 billion. ARPU was 1.1% lower at KRW31,393.
KT ended the quarter with a total of 14.29 million connections, excluding IoT and MVNO, up 1.4% year-on-year.
The executive also noted that Korean carriers are currently engaged in talks to potentially cooperate on the construction of 5G infrastructure. “The operators are in discussions about potentially making investment into a joint network. The details are yet to be ironed out. The whole idea of a joint network will help in terms of speeding up the broadening or expansion of the coverage and also will be favorable in terms of the quality and also will help to further enhance investment efficiency.”
Korean mobile operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus had recently agreed to invest a total of KRW 25.7 trillion through 2022 to boost 5G infrastructure across Korea.
This new investment will primarily focus on enhancing 5G quality in Seoul and six other metropolitan cities. The investment plan also stipulates the deployment of 5G in 2,000 multi-purpose facilities, on Seoul Metro lines 2 and 9 and along major highways.
In 2021, the carriers committed to expand 5G connectivity to an additional 85 districts, including 4,000 multi-purpose facilities, subways and all train stations, as well as 20 additional highways.
Korean carriers are also paving the way to offer 5G via standalone networks. LG Uplus recently said it had completed tests of core technologies supporting voice service running on a standalone (SA) 5G network as the carrier expects to launch 5G based on SA architecture later this year.
In a statement, the operator said the tests verified the performance of evolved packet system (EPS) fallback and voice over 5G (Vo5G), and demonstrated it is ready to deliver stable and high-quality 5G voice services.
Rival operators SK Telecom and KT have also carried out tests of 5G SA networks and aim to launch this technology during the second half of this year, according to previous reports.