S. Korea launches 5G smartphone networks ahead of schedule

The celebrities, who included two members of K-pop band EXO and Olympic hero Kim Yu-na, have become the world's first 5G smartphone users.

A KT technician checks an antenna for the 5G mobile network service in Seoul.

Some will, no doubt, contend that the South Korean launches have already taken place, with widespread reports of 5G launches in the country on April 3.

According to experts, communication technology will allow the nearly instantaneous connection in mobile phones, that is, 20 times faster than with the previous generation, so users can download movies in less than one second.

The faster 5G standard is expected to bring out changes in diverse digital fields, such as driverless transport, industry and gaming among many others.

The Ministry of Science and ICT summoned representatives from SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus for an urgent meeting on Wednesday. 5G Galaxy S10 is currently available only in South Korea, at least for now.

South Korean carriers started offering 5G services at 11 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) on Wednesday.

NetComm 5G Fixed Wireless self-installation technology
S. Korea launches 5G smartphone networks ahead of schedule

Before Friday's roll-out of the Samsung phone, the 5G service had been restricted to a handful of specially selected users in South Korea. When Korea finally launched the 5G mobile services on April 3, Americans claimed they had started using 5G services on a "5G-enabled smartphone" from Lenovo-owned Motorola. "Chicago and Minneapolis are first in the world to 5G mobility".

America, China and Japan were involved in the race with South Korea to get the title of providing 5G services first.

"I don't think we have a security issue in South Korea", Park Jin-hyo, head of SK Telecom's information and communication tech research centre, told reporters.

Smaller rival KT Corp said it will offer cheaper 5G plans than its LTE service, with unlimited data and four-year instalments to buy 5G devices. The service, however, was made available to mobile hotspot devices but is not yet on smartphones.

Around 30 customers were invited to the event, which was also attended by figure skating queen and SKT 5G ambassador Kim Yuna.

"Being the first means a lot because it means we're the first to lay the entire 5G infrastructure, having overcome lots of technological difficulties through collaboration between telecom, phone and gear companies", said Yang Maeng-seog, a vice president at SK Telecom Co., South Korea's biggest carrier.

  • Latoya Cobb