Number of 4G smartphone plan subscribers increases first time in 17 months

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : July 5, 2021, 15:38 | Updated : July 5, 2021, 15:38

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SEOUL -- In a country known for the world's first commercialization of 5G mobile communication, the number of 4G smartphone subscribers has increased for the first time in 17 months, government data showed. Consumers have chosen to use a slower 4G service because 5G plans are too expensive. 

Since 5G was commercialized in January 2019, the number of 5G plan subscribers has steadily increased, but consumers have complained about the quality of 5G network services compared to high fees. An unlimited monthly 4G data plan costs an average of about 49,000 won ($43) while an unlimited 5G data plan costs an average of about 80,000 won. 

Many consumers found that the coverage of 5G services was not good. 5G radio waves can deliver large data files faster than 4G's but the latest-generation mobile communication technique is not ideal for connecting mobile devices inside buildings and underground structures.

According to statistical data released by the Ministry of Science and ICT on July 4, the number of 4G service subscribers stood at 51.1 million in May 2021, up 0.5 percent from a month ago. It marked the first monthly increase in 17 months. The ministry said the number of 5G users rose 4.6 percent from a month ago to 15.8 million.

South Korean mobile carriers normally offer a discounted price for two-year plans. However, customers are able to switch their plans, carriers, or phones after 16 months of use. Some customers have switched from 5G to 4G after the compulsory subscription period expired.
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