Published: Sat, April 06, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

South Korea Takes World Lead in 5G Launch

South Korea Takes World Lead in 5G Launch

Hyper-wired South Korea has long had a reputation for technical prowess, and Seoul had made the 5G rollout a priority as it seeks to stimulate stuttering economic growth.

But speculation that U.S. mobile carrier Verizon might start its 5G services early forced South Korean providers to hastily organize a late-night launch, Yonhap news agency reported.

Forbes reported that SK Telecom has installed 35,000 5G base stations and this will give significant coverage for Seoul.

However, the South Korean 5G services were initially available only to a few individuals selected as brand promoters, including figure skating superstar Yuna Kim, who SK Telecom announced as one of its "first customers".

While South Korea is the first with 5G across the country, Verizon Communications Inc started services in Minneapolis and Chicago overnight.

Despite South Korea's claim to have won the battle for 5G bragging rights, Japan's Nikkei business paper said the race may still be too close to call, noting that Verizon's announcement was made at 11am United States eastern time, while South Korea's SK said it had switched on its service an hour earlier.

The 5G mobile networks will bring smartphones near- instant connectivity, 20 times faster than the existing 4G that is allowing users to download entire movies in less than a second.

But according to Yonhap, the South Korean launches came two hours earlier.

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The network is expected to rake in some $565 billion in global economic benefits, according to London-based Global System for Mobile Communications, an industry alliance.

Samsung was the first to unwrap a 5G phone in February when it unveiled the Galaxy S10 5G and a almost $2,000 folding smartphone, putting the world's top smartphone maker by volume in pole position in the 5G race, some analysts say.

During the launch event, SKT has also revealed its first 5G subscribers.

Until now, no mobile networks have offered nationwide 5G access.

In the UK, EE is to launch 5G networks in cities later this year, along with 5G compatible phones from companies such as Samsung.

In South Korea, telcos and smartphone makers are pulling out all stops to market 5G services and devices. For general customers, the services will be available from today - the previous launch date - when Samsung rolls out the Galaxy S10 5G, the world's first available smartphone using the technology.

"We're expecting the leap from 4G to 5G to be a much greater leap than ever before".

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