Disgruntled 5G users in South Korea to mount legal action

South Korea's operators have received plenty of plaudits from various market researchers about the quality and reach of their 5G networks, at least when compared with other countries.

For many 5G smartphone customers within South Korea, however, that cuts little ice. According to Korea Bizwire, "hundreds" of them have banded together to take legal action against LG U+, KT and SK Telecom.


Consumer backlash: South Korea might be seen as leading the 5G stampede – but Koreans say they're not getting the service they're paying for. (Source: Daniel Bernard on Unsplash)

Their gripe is that 5G is little better than 4G in terms of speed, while coverage is annoyingly patchy. Worst of all, they're locked into much more expensive two-year contracts when compared to LTE tariffs.

Pay up or see you in court

Rather than just put up with their 5G lot, this unhappy crew is intending to take part in a collective lawsuit and seek compensation of at least KRW1 million ($890) each. South Korean law firm Joowon is spearheading the legal action.

"Considering that monthly 5G plans are around 50,000 won more expensive than 4G LTE plans, we expect around 1 million won in compensation for users subscribed to two-year plans," explained Kim Jin-wook, a Joowon lawyer.

Kim indicated that South Korea's "big three" had a case to answer. They initially advertised 5G download speeds as being 20 times faster than 4G LTE, when they first came out of the 5G traps in April 2019, but a government report last year apparently found that average 5G download speeds were just four times faster than 4G.

According to Opensignal, as cited by Korea Bizwire, LG U+, KT and SK Telecom had collectively deployed a shade over 166,000 5G basestations as of last November. That was about a fifth the number of 4G basestations at that time.

Down in the 5G dumps

5G consumer grumblings in South Korea have been growing for a while.

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on Light Reading.

Korea Bizwire points out that the Korea National Council of Consumer Organizations, a consumer advocacy group, recommended last October that carriers pay as much as KRW350,000 ($309) in compensation to users who filed for mediation over what they saw as a mediocre 5G service.

As of January the number of 5G subscribers in South Korea was just shy of 13 million, which was less than 20% of all mobile network users in the country.