Korean mobile operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus have agreed to invest a total of KRW 25.7 trillion ($22 billion) through 2022 to boost 5G infrastructure across the country, local press reported.

The carriers announced this investment following a meeting with Science and ICT Minister Choi Ki-young at the Central Government Complex in downtown Seoul.

This new investment will primarily focus on enhancing 5G quality in Seoul and six other metropolitan cities. The investment plan also stipulates the deployment of  5G in 2,000 multi-purpose facilities, on Seoul Metro lines 2 and 9 and along major highways.

In 2021, the carriers committed to expand 5G connectivity to an additional 85 districts, including 4,000 multi-purpose facilities, subways and all train stations, as well as 20 additional highways.

The government and private sector will work together for a possible breakthrough in 5G network infrastructure to overcome the crisis,” ICT Minister Choi reportedly said.

The minister said 5G will become the core base of Korea’s “Digital New Deal,” as all advanced technologies, such as AI, will need to utilize the network. The government plans to provide tax support in the form of tax credits and other tax reductions for telecom companies to expand the current 14.3% nationwide 5G coverage up to 70% by 2025.

The three carriers reportedly requested the government to provide wider tax cuts to help them invest more in the country’s 5G networks.

South Korea ended May with almost 6.9 million subscribers in the 5G segment. The number of 5G subscribers currently represents approximately 10% of the 69.43 million mobile service lines in the country.

South Korea rolled out the world’s first commercial 5G network on April 3, 2019, with the nation’s three carriers — SK Telecom Co., KT Corp. and LG Uplus — aggressively promoting the new service to consumers.

The Korean government recently said that local mobile carriers had already deployed over 115,000 5G base stations across the country.

Korean operators also expect to commercialize an ultrafast mmWave 5G network this year, according to previous press reports.

The mmWave 5G service will be initially available for the business-to-business segment. Operators have not yet finalized investment plans for the business-to-consumer sector, as the cost of building additional infrastructure still represents a major issue.

Due to the high level of capital expenditures needed, the launch of the mmWave 5G network for personal smart devices is likely to start next year or in 2022.

Korean carriers are also paving the way to offer 5G via standalone networks. LG Uplus recently said it had completed tests of core technologies supporting voice service running on a standalone (SA) 5G network as the carrier expects to launch 5G based on SA architecture later this year.

Rival operators SK Telecom and KT have also carried out tests of 5G SA networks and aim to launch this technology during the second half of this year, according to previous reports.