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The South Korean government's regulations on private 5G
June 08, 2023 | By Harrison J. Son (son@netmanias.com)
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On October 28, 2021, the South Korean government (Ministry of Science and ICT: MSITstarted offering private 5G frequencies (100MHz@4.7GHz, 600MHz@28GHz) in an effort to deploy private 5G, a crucial infrastructure for enterprises' digital transformation, across a variety of industries in South Korea. 

 

With the availability of these private 5G frequencies, enterprises in Korea can now deploy private 5G networks independently from the public 5G networks of mobile operators.

 

As of June 7, 2023, private 5G frequencies have been assigned to 36 locations in 21 companies. See the list of operators and enterprises to which the MSIT has assigned private 5G frequencies.

 

Advantages of building a private 5G network using private 5G frequencies

(compared to building a private 5G network using public 5G networks)

 

An enterprise private 5G network can also be built with a fraction of the MNO's public 5G network capacity (network slicing). In this case, the uplink and downlink capacity is shared with public 5G traffic, which means that the quality of private 5G network traffic may be affected by public 5G network traffic (smartphones).

 

On the other hand, a private 5G network built using private 5G frequencies (4.7 GHz, 28 GHz) is independent of the MNO's public 5G network (public 5G frequency: 3.5 GHz). Therefore, a single enterprise can exclusively use 5G's high-capacity up and down links independent of public 5G network traffic.

 

In addition, the MNO's public 5G network is designed for downlink applications like video streaming and games, so the downlink capacity is set to be high. However, in the enterprise private network environment, there are many camera uplink applications like remote monitoring, remote driving, and AI vision, so the uplink capacity must be high.

 

In the public 5G network used by all citizens, the ratio of uplink and downlink capacity cannot be adjusted for a specific company. On the other hand, the private network using private 5G frequencies are used by a single company alone, so the uplink and downlink ratio can be changed as desired by the company.

 

  5G Network
  Public 5G Network Private 5G Network
  User   Consumer   Enterprise
  Device   Phone   Phone, Robot, Camera, Sensor, etc.

  Network

  Deployment

  deploy public 5G networks

  using public 5G frequency

  deploy private 5G networks

  reusing public 5G network

  resource (network equipment,

  frequency)

  : Network Slicing

  deploy private 5G networks 

  using private 5G frequencies

  5G

  Frequency

  MNO's Licensed/Public 5G 

  Frequency  

  [3.5GHz, in Korea]

  MNO's Licensed/Public 5G

  Frequency  

  [3.5GHz, in Korea]

  Private 5G Frequency

 

  [4.7GHz, 28GHz, in Korea]

 

In the following sections, the private 5G network will be explained only in the context of private networks established using private 5G frequencies (not MNO's network slicing).

 

 

Private 5G spectrum policy and regulation of the Korean government (MSIT)

 

This private 5G frequencies provided by the MSIT can be used in two ways.

  • Private 5G Operator: an organization that wants to provide private 5G network services to enterprise customers must be approved by MSIT as a private 5G common carrier. The private 5G operator applies to MSIT for a private 5G frequency to be utilized at the customer's workplace and uses this frequency to provide enterprise customers with private 5G network services.
    • ​This case is referred to by the government as "private 5G frequency use type: Type 3 (frequency allocation)".
    • As of June 7, 2023, there are 11 private 5G operators in Korea. 
    • Private 5G operators build private 5G networks for enterprise customers and charge a fee for the service. Typically, 5G equipment is provided free of charge or at a minimal cost, and a monthly subscription fee is charged to keep upfront costs down.
  • Enterprise DIY: Enterprises apply to MSIT for private 5G frequencies to use at their locations and use these frequencies to build their own private 5G networks.
    • ​This case is referred to by the government as "private 5G frequency use type: Type 1 (frequency designation)".
    • As of June 7, 2023, 10 enterprises in Korea have built their own 5G networks
    • Typically, enterprises purchase 5G network equipment (base stations, cores, MECs) from SIs or vendors, and the equipment is the property of the company (purchase type).
    • Enterprises can only use the private 5G network for their own employees and not for other enterprises.

 

Figure 1. Private 5G Market Players in Korea

Private 5G Solution Provider, Private 5G Operator, and Enterprise

 

In Japan, which made private 5G (local 5G in Japanese) frequencies available to the market in 2019, two years earlier than Korea, MNOs such as NTT Docomo and KDDI are not allowed to become private 5G network operators.

 

In South Korea, as in Japan, MNOs (public 5G network operators: SK Telecom, KT, and LG U+) are not allowed to become private 5G operators. 

 

The Korean government (MSIT) prohibits MNOs from entering the market as private 5G operators due to monopoly concerns.

 

If MNOs are allowed to participate as private 5G operators, it is obvious that mobile operators who have already designed, built, and operated public 5G networks for several years will monopolize the private 5G network market, just as they monopolize the public 5G market today.

 

In this case, it is difficult to expect the expansion of the private 5G network market and ecosystem through competition in the B2B market with the emergence of various new private 5G operators expected by the government, and the government loses the justification for institutionalizing private 5G frequency.

 

 

Figure 2. Private 5G Regulation in Korea

In South Korea, mobile operators (MNOs: SK Telecom, KT, and LG U+) are not allowed to become private 5G operators. 

 

 

  

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[HFR Private 5G: my5G]

 

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