S. Korea to launch world’s first national 5G networks, Latest World News - The New Paper

S. Korea to launch world’s first national 5G networks

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5G technology will allow users to download movies in less than a second

SEOUL: South Korea launches the world's first fully-fledged 5G mobile networks tomorrow, a transformational leap that already has superpowers sparring for control of an innovation that could change the day-to-day lives of billions of people.

The super-fast communications heralded by fifth-generation wireless technology will ultimately underpin everything from toasters to telephones; from electric cars to power grids.

But while South Korea has won the race to be first to provide the user experience, it is only one part of a wider battle between the US and China that has ensnared giants such as Huawei.

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


The system will bring smartphones near-instantaneous connectivity - 20 times faster than the existing 4G - allowing users to download entire movies in less than a second.

It is crucial for the future development of devices ranging from self-driving vehicles that send data traffic to one another in real time, industrial robots, drones and other elements of the Internet of Things.

That makes it a vital part of the infrastructure of tomorrow, and the 5G standard is expected to bring about US$565 billion (S$764 billion) in global economic benefits by 2034, according to the London-based Global System for Mobile Communications, an industry alliance.

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

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

In the US, hotspots in a few selected cities have offered 5G speeds but over Wi-Fi only, while Qatari firm Ooredoo says it offers 5G services in and around Doha, but does not have devices available to use them.

Japan is also expected to roll out a limited deployment this year before full services start in time for next year's Tokyo Olympics.

But cost is likely to be a barrier for user uptake initially, analysts say. The cheapest version of the new Samsung Galaxy handset will be 1.39 million won (S$1,658).

"While there are many cheap 4G smartphones under US$300 (S$405), Samsung's 5G phones are well over US$1,000, which could be a major minus point for cost-savvy consumers," a KT representative said. - AFP