From exceptionally high speeds and widespread coverage to the impact of new 5G services on the company revenue, let’s take a closer look at LG U+, a telco capitalising on the 5G

It should come as no surprise to anyone that South Korea, the first nation to rollout 5G at scale, continues to be a trailblazer when it comes to the latest generation of mobile technology. All three of the nation’s major mobile operators – KT, LG U+, and SK Telecom – have been highly efficient in rolling out 5G across the country, as well as being fiercely competitive with one another when it comes to speeds, coverage and services.

But what makes a winning strategy for 5G when it comes to one of the most advanced mobile markets in the world?

To explore this question in a little more detail, let’s take a closer look at how LG U+ have approached the rollout of 5G.


King of coverage

Widespread coverage of high-quality connectivity is the heart of LG U+’s 5G strategy. For customers to make the most of all the services that 5G has to offer, such as augmented reality (AR), coverage must be ubiquitous, allowing for a seamless connected experience when on the move. As a result, ensuring almost complete coverage for densely populated urban areas has been a primary concern for LG U+.

Take the capital, Seoul, for example. Naturally, the metropolis has emerged as a major battleground for the South Korean telcos, with competition over 5G pushing coverage to exceptional heights. According to the latest South Korean report by RootMetrics, LG U+ now has the highest coverage of the operator trio, covering 95.2% of the city, compared to KT’s 95.0% and SK Telecom’s 93.2%.

But while the capital is, of course, a major the poster-boy for South Korean 5G, this level of coverage is far from unique for LG U+. Indeed, the report RootMetrics showed that LG U+ delivered at least 80.2% coverage in all four of the major cities tested: Busan (80.2%), Gwangju (89.7%), Incheon (94.9%), and Seoul (95.2%).

To put this into context with other major Western cities, New York City currently reports around 74.1% coverage, Zurich – one of the crowns of European 5G development – boasts just 45.6%, and London trails with just 43.7%.

The disparity here between South Korea’s coverage compared to other markets around the world is clear to see, but it is not just the level of 5G availability in South Korea that is impressive, it is also the speeds. 

Once again, this is another metric where LG U+ leads the pack in Seoul, recording the fastest 5G median download speed in the city at 640.7 Mbps, a jump from 601.5 Mbps in 2H 2020. With these speeds, downloading HD movies takes just seconds and the accompanying low latency means near real-time connectivity and interaction throughout the city; LG U+ was notably the only one of the trio to demonstrate latency below 30ms in every tested city, achieving the lowest latency of all, 22.0ms, with its 5G services in Gwangju.

Part of this impressive performance can be attributed to LG U+’s use of Huawei’s 5G Massive MIMO solution in Seoul and Incheon. These innovations have allowed LG U+ to achieve the fastest median speeds in these cities despite having narrower 5G spectrum bandwidth than its competitors (80MHz compared to 100MHz).

In short, LG U+’s 5G network, both in terms of coverage and quality, is exceptional in major urban centres. But how is the operator leveraging this connectivity for profit?


The value of new services

While the incredibly high speeds engendered by 5G are certainly very attractive to customers, this is really only part of the story. In fact, it is the reliability and low latency of the new mobile technology that really allows for the developments of new products and services. 

In this regard, LG U+ has been leveraging its 5G network throughout the coronavirus pandemic to help them stay connected to their customers via a contactless retail store. Similarly, the operator already has AR and virtual reality (VR) applications available to consumers, offering them entirely new forms of experience, whether that is enhancing their enjoyment of a K-pop concert or allowing them a more immersive learning experience during remote education. 

You can get a flavour of the sort of AR experiences LG U+’s is offering their customers by visiting their XR gallery here, showcasing one of their most recent concerts. 

These new services not only make 5G adoption highly appealing for customers but represent a significant revenue boost for the operators.

According to the company’s first-quarter earnings report this year, about 3.34 million LG U+ customers – or about 19.6% of its customer base – were subscribed to their 5G service. The operator added around 579,000 net 5G subscribers during that quarter, contributing to a 5.4% increase in LG U+ wireless service revenues.

By the end of the year, LG U+ expects 40% of its total customer base to be subscribed to 5G.


Making a difference in real time

Crucially, the difference between 5G and 4G is that the new technology goes beyond just being a network, rather than becoming a system that can provide real-time information. Coupled with edge computing, the cloud, IoT, big data, not to mention AI, and you have a myriad of possibilities to provide services to customers that need it most.

Here, it is easy to think of industrial solutions, such as private network deployments helping usher in the era of smart factories and Industry 4.0.  But 5G can have an even more direct impact as a societal force for good, from helping our world become more environmentally friendly to facilitating telemedicine.

This is another major focus for LG U+, whose latest campaign involves helping parents find missing children by taking their fingerprints. Combining 5G and AI, this initiative can reduce the time taken to find a child from 56 hours to 52 minutes.

You can learn more about this initiative in the video below, courtesy of CNBC Catalyst.



For LG U+, these solutions like these are all about developing a brand that the consumer knows they can trust to deliver to meet their specific needs, and 5G will be at the heart of this proposition.

“Maintain a conversation with consumers, with the tonality of empathy,” said Sara Kim. “If your brand is silent, it’s much harder to get the brand credibility back.”


Lessons from LG U+

So, what lessons can we learn from LG U+ and the other South Korean operators when it comes to 5G? Firstly, coverage is paramount if customers are to enjoy a seamless and reliable experience. 

Secondly, there is a major opportunity available when it comes to new services, like AR and VR, where the first adopters will reap the largest rewards. 

Finally, 5G will be key to unlocking numerous complementary technologies, from AI to the IoT, and combining them effectively to meet the needs of customers can result in significant gains for the operator. 

The 5G era is just beginning and the opportunities for operators are enormous. The question is: who will take advantage first?


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