South Korea To Launch World’s 1st 5G Networks Friday

Ffirst 5G phone
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the world’s first smartphone using 5G tech (Photo: Samsung Electronics)

It will be South Korea and not the United States or China that will become the first country in the world to commercially roll-out a national 5G network.

South Korea will attain this enviable feat on Friday when it rolls out this game-changing, superfast wireless technology. 5G technology makes available 20-times faster data speeds than 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks. It also better supports artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) with low latency.

Experts claim 5G can sometimes offer 100-times faster speeds. And it's often been said 5G will allow users to download an entire movie in about one second.

All three of South Korea's mobile networks -- KT Corporation (South Korea's largest telephone firm); SK Telecom Co. Ltd. (the largest wireless carrier) and LG UPlus Corporation (a cellular carrier) -- will go live with their 5G services. SK Telecom expects over 1 million 5G customers by end-2019. It has a total of 27 million users for its other telecom services.

Also on Friday, Samsung Electronics will release its new Galaxy S10 5G, the world's first available smartphone using  5G tech. The cheapest version of the Galaxy S10 5G handset will retail for $1,200.

Rival LG will release its own 5G V50s smartphone two weeks from now. The price hasn't been announced. Availing of 5G will be initially expensive and will likely be a barrier for user uptake, according to telecom analysts.

"While there are many cheap 4G smartphones under $300, Samsung's 5G phones are well over $1,000, which could be a major minus point for cost-savvy consumers," said a KT executive to AFP.

KT says 5G's hyper speed can connect one million devices within a one square kilometer zone simultaneously. More than three million South Koreans will switch to 5G by the end of this year, estimates KT vice-president Lee Pil-jae.

5G will change the landscape of the gaming industry since it will allow games streamed with minimal delay to be played on smartphones," said Ryu Young-sang, executive vice president at SK Telecom.

None of South Korea's three network operators would reveal their total investments in 5G but these are likely to be astronomical. South Korea's economy minister Hong Nam-ki estimated these investments will hit $2.6 billion this year alone.

"If 5G is fully implemented," he said, "it will greatly improve people's lives."

Experts say 5G will unleash a new level of connectivity empowered by speed. They say 5G will be crucial for the future development of devices such as self-driving vehicles, industrial robots, drones and other elements comprising the Internet of Things.

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