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LG U+ 5G speed claim slammed

Rivals guffaw at tests, which were conducted with off-the-rack app
June 28,2019
5G is fast. The question is: Who has the fastest?

While the introduction of all-new network technologies leads to a debate among rival telecommunications companies about which system is better, with 3G and 4G rollouts accompanied by boasts from all participants, the noise surrounding the latest generation has been particularly notable.

Each carrier has run ads for months saying that their networks were the best and that they have the best content.

Then things got ugly.

On Monday, LG U+ published advertorials claiming that it is the No. 1 in Seoul in terms of 5G performance. It backed up its bold claim with data from a BenchBee Speed Test. BenchBee is a Korean company that provides internet speed test services.

SK Telecom and KT objected, in no uncertain terms, to the statements made by LG U+. They said the tests were not properly conducted.

LG U+ shot back, saying that the information hadn’t been distorted and that an open test should be conducted by all three carriers.

For its tests, LG U+ calculated the average network speed at 186 spots in the city. Its 5G was fastest in 181 of the spots.

“Seen from a comprehensive view, the [LG U+] data makes me cast reasonable doubt,” said Kim Young-in, senior vice president of KT’s network division at a press briefing on Wednesday. “The result was derived with an intention. Every mobile carrier is able to find spots where their network pulls off the fastest speed.”

Due to the massive MIMO- (multiple input, multiple output) antenna systems, 5G speeds can dramatically change even when the user moves a short distance. This means the 5G speed at a certain spot can’t guarantee the overall quality of the network, according to Kim.

KT and SK Telecom also noted that the tests were static. To get a real-world sense of how the networks are operating, tests should be conducted by users in motion.

Tests by LG U+ utilized the LG Electronics V50 ThinQ smartphone.

The company claimed that its average 5G speed on the 5G-enabled device was 480 megabits per second, which was faster than the 323 megabits per second and 348 megabits per second recorded by its rivals tested at the same locations. As it was an average figure calculated from multiple tests, the results are “a more subjective index than a one-time speed calculation,” according to LG U+.

But for the speed to be calculated more accurately, the test should have been conducted using both the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the LG V50 ThinQ, LG U+’s rivals claim.

“Measuring speed just with the V50 ThinQ seemed like pulling an unfair trick,” said Kim, as the carrier was using a phone manufactured by a related company.

LG owns 36.0 percent of LG U+ and 33.7 percent of LG Electronics.

“As an engineer, I can’t agree with the LG U+ test results from BenchBee,” said Ryu Jung-hwan, the 5GX Infra group senior vice president at SK Telecom, at a press event held in central Seoul on Wednesday. “The results are hard to trust because the app can show different speeds at different times at the same spot.”

Ryu further mentioned the need for using diverse indicators in multiple environments to be able to properly measure the actual speed of the network.

And quality isn’t just speed.

“Quality equals speed and coverage, as well as other factors, like the latency and the battery consumption,” said Kim. “We agree that LG U+ did a good job with installing 5G network in Seoul. But to truly provide a high-quality network, an operator needs to secure sufficient coverage.”

Some argue that nothing is very significant so early in the game.

“At this point, announcing the speed of their 5G network isn’t very meaningful because the network is still in the initial phase and the speed difference among the companies isn’t that dramatic,” said Kim Yeon-hak, a professor from Sogang University’s Graduate School of Management of Technology.

“Such intense competition is what is driving Korea to become the country with the finest telecom service. Mobile operators from other countries are usually slow to install a new network because they focus on maximizing profit out of the existing network. Korean telecom firms, however, install a new network at a very rapid pace, and they also offer subsidies for new devices for new networks. Excessive competition from the consumer perspective is always good.”

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]