SK Telecom sets 1 December date for 5G launch

Update: three South Korean operators will launch live 5G services on 1 December. SK Telecom says it will provide enterprise services and deploying advanced security technology.

SK Telecom has said it will launch 5G services at 00:00, December 1, 2018 in central areas of Seoul, Seoul Metropolitan Area and six metropolitan cities. The company plans to expand its 5G service coverage to 85 cities nationwide by September 2019. 

A live, 1 December 2018 launch of services over 5G NR that are available to paying commercial customers would be a world first.

SK Telecom said that the first commercial 5G service will be provided to Myunghwa Industry – an auto parts company based in Ansan. SK Telecom said 5G connectivity would be used to verify quality  on Myunghwa’s production lines. High-resolution, multi-angle photos of products on conveyor belts will be sent to a cloud server that will use AI to scan the photos to check for defective products.

The company said 5G for enterprise customers will be provided as a package that includes mobile router, network communication and solution, with usage fees differing by company as the services will be provided in customised formats. 

Quantum cryptography

SK Telecom also said it will first apply quantum cryptography communication technology to the Seoul-Ansan section of its 5G network and plans to apply the technology to its customer authentication server in the first half of next year. The company said it had developed the world’s smallest Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) chip in 2017 and in February 2018 acquired over 50% of ID Quantique, a quantum-safe cryptography solutions provider.

SK Telecom is positioning its launch as not just about 5G connectivity, but about creating a future for itself based on the convergence of 5G and AI technologies.

CEO Park Jung-ho posted a message on the company’s bulletin board saying, “In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 5G is expected to serve as the main artery that connects people and things and also things themselves, and AI will act as the brain that analyses complicated data and seeks optimal solutions. Both 5G and AI will become the core competitiveness of SK Telecom.”


All three South Korean operators are using 1 December as their official launch date for 5G services. These reports from South Korean media have more details. Previous reports had proposed that a national “South Korean 5G day” – whereby all three operators would go live on the same day – might happen in March 2019.