South Korean mobile network operators take first 5G phone orders

Marion JacobsApr 07, 2019

"For the first time ever, customers can access a commercial 5G network with the world's first commercially available 5G-enabled smartphone", Verizon said in a statement.

It has data transmission speeds 20 times faster than the current 4G long-term evolution (LTE) wireless technology.

Rival US carrier AT&T deployed what it called its 5G E network in 12 cities a year ago with speeds faster than 4G networks but below those being deployed in other fifth-generation systems. Indeed, SK Telecom held a "5G Launching Showcase" on Wednesday and unveiled pricing plans and details of video and VR services.

According to market speculations, South Korea recognized itself as the first nation to debut 5G, but USA mobile firms did not agree to this, claiming that they had rolled out 5G services in limited regions as early as previous year. Three top telecom providers - SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus - began their 5G services at 11 pm local time on April 3, despite previously announcing the launch date would be April 5.

In Japan, 5G is expected to become available in some parts of the country in the summer at the earliest.

Commercialising 5G gives South Korea the chance to build around the technology, which is crucial for the future development of devices such as autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things.

The implications of the new network have pitted Washington against Beijing - whose firms dominate 5G technology - in an increasingly bitter standoff.

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SK Telecom said it was expanding in-building coverage around 120 department stores, shopping centres and airports.

In South Korea, telcos and smartphone makers are pulling out all stops to market 5G services and devices.

The telecoms have been in a fierce fight with their U.S. rivals.

More than three million South Koreans will switch to 5G by the end of this year, predicted KT vice-president Lee Pil Jae.

FILE - In this Tuesday, April 2, 2019 file photo, an employee of KT Corp. demonstrates with a 5G services available on smarpthone during a press conference on 5G service at its the headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. Verizon last month stated that customers would be able to use 5G facilities on Moto Mod and Z3 by Motorola.

Why this matters: People are mostly excited about the promise of ultra-fast 5G speeds: 500 to 1,500 megabits per second.

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