By Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL, June 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's ICT ministry said Tuesday it will provide 5G frequency bands to companies other than telecom operators later this year in a move to spur the wider adoption and development of technology for the latest generation networks.
The country has so far distributed 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) and 28 GHz bands for 5G network operations exclusively to the country's three major wireless carriers -- SK Telecom Co., KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp.
The ministry said it will offer 600 megahertz of bandwidth between 28.9 GHz and 29.5 GHz divided into 12 blocks, as well as 100 megahertz of bandwidth between 4.72 GHz and 4.82 GHz in the sub-6 GHz range split into 10 blocks to non-telecom companies for two to five years.
The frequencies will be allocated by the end of November this year.
The move paves the way for non-telecom operators, such as tech giant Samsung Electronics Co. or online portal Naver Corp., to operate specialized 5G networks in a limited environment.
The ministry said it expects the distribution to help companies operate 5G networks across various industries and lead to new service innovations, such as smart factories and smart farms.
The announcement comes as South Korea's telecom operators have yet to commercialize high-band or millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G, which theoretically allows speeds that are up to 20 times faster than 4G LTE.
Average 5G download speeds last year were estimated to be around four times faster than 4G LTE.
Mobile carriers have struggled to find applications for the blazing fast 5G speeds and the vast majority -- 71 percent -- of the country's mobile users were still on 4G networks as of April, compared with 21 percent on 5G.
Carriers are currently testing mmWave 5G services with a focus on business applications, such as live video feeds of sports games in virtual reality and autonomous delivery robots.
South Korea, which first commercialized the latest generation networks in April 2019, aims to establish nationwide coverage by the end of next year.