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South Korea: World’s First Nationwide 5G Mobile Networks, Innovation Transforming Lives

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

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SK Telecom CEO Park Jung-ho, left, and participants attend a media showcase for the company's 5G service in Seoul, South Korea, April 3, 2019. SK Telecom will be launching commercial 5G services nationwide on Friday. VOA

South Korea on Friday launches the world’s first nationwide 5G mobile networks, a transformational leap that has superpowers sparring for control of an innovation that could change the day-to-day lives of billions of people.

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

But while Seoul has won the race to be first to provide the user experience, that is only one part of a wider battle that has pitted the United States against China and ensnared giants including Huawei.

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

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

In the same way that 3G enabled widespread mobile web access and 4G made new applications work ranging from social media to Uber, 5G will herald a new level of connectivity, empowered by speed.

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

Lee Pil-jae, second from right, vice president at KT Corp., and models introduce various 5G services available on smarpthones during a press conference on 5G service at KT Corp.'s headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, April 2, 2019.
Lee Pil-jae, second from right, vice president at KT Corp., and models introduce various 5G services available on smarpthones during a press conference on 5G service at KT Corp.’s headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, April 2, 2019. VOA

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

‘1 million devices’

But the implications of the new technology have pitted Washington against Beijing in an increasingly bitter standoff.

The U.S. has pressed its allies and major economies to avoid 5G solutions from Chinese-owned telecom giant Huawei, citing security risks that technological back doors could give Beijing access to 5G-connected utilities and other components.

But Chinese firms dominate 5G technology.

FILE - A staff member stands in front of a Huawei shop in Beijing, China, March 7, 2019.
A staff member stands in front of a Huawei shop in Beijing, China, March 7, 2019. VOA

Huawei, the global leader, has registered 1,529 5G patents, according to data analysis firm IPlytics.

Combined with manufacturers ZTE and Oppo, plus the China Academy of Telecommunications Technology, Chinese entities own a total of 3,400 patents, more than a third of the total, according to the research firm.

South Korea comes next, with its companies holding 2,051 patents.

In contrast, U.S. firms have 1,368, IPlytics said, 29 fewer than Finland’s Nokia alone.

All three of South Korea’s mobile operators — KT, SK Telecom and LG UPlus — will go live with their 5G services on Friday.

“5G’s hyperspeed can connect 1 million devices within a 1-square-kilometer zone simultaneously,” KT said in a report.

Neither KT nor SK Telecom uses Huawei technology in its 5G network, but Huawei is a supplier to LG UPlus, the companies told AFP.

On the same day, Samsung Electronics will release the Galaxy S10 5G, the world’s first available smartphone using the technology, and rival phonemaker LG will follow with the V50s two weeks later.

Deployment in US

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

Visitors test a VR device using the 5G network at a pop-up store of South Korean telecom operator LG Uplus in Seoul, April 2, 2019.
Visitors test a VR device using the 5G network at a pop-up store of South Korean telecom operator LG Uplus in Seoul, April 2, 2019. VOA

U.S. network carrier Verizon said Wednesday that it had become the first carrier in the world to deploy a 5G network — in Chicago and Minneapolis, with more cities due to follow this year. The system will work with Lenovo’s Moto Z3 smartphone.

“Verizon customers will be the first in the world to have the power of 5G in their hands,” said Hans Vestberg, Verizon’s chairman and chief executive officer. “This is the latest in our string of 5G firsts.”

Cost barrier

More than 3 million South Koreans will switch to 5G by the end of this year, predicted KT Vice President Lee Pil-jae.
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None of South Korea’s three network operators would say how much they have invested in 5G, but Seoul’s Economy Minister Hong Nam-ki estimated it would be at least $2.6 billion this year alone.

“If 5G is fully implemented,” he said, “it will greatly improve people’s lives.” (VOA)

Next Story

5G Smartphones Priced Around $150 To Be Unveiled By End of This Year: Huawei President

An estimated 5 million 5G capable smartphones were sold in December 2019 alone

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Additionally, Chinese local research agencies suggested that 20 per cent of all mid range smartphones will support 5G, thanks to the expansion of the network in the country. Pixabay

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei’s President for 5G product line, Yang Chaobin believes that 5G smartphones priced around $150 are expected to be launched by the end of 2020 or in early 2021.

Huawei, along with its sub-brand Honor, has launched a number of 5G smartphones in 2019, including Mate 30 5G series, Mate 20 X 5G, Mate X 5G, Nova 6 5G, Honor V30 series, among others, news portal GizmoChina reported on Friday.

Recently, the company announced that it has shipped 6.9 million units of 5G smartphones as of December 2019, in addition to offering end-to-end 5G solutions. Additionally, Chinese local research agencies suggested that 20 per cent of all mid range smartphones will support 5G, thanks to the expansion of the network in the country.

An estimated 5 million 5G capable smartphones were sold in December 2019 alone. It is expected that more than 20 per cent of the smartphones under $290 will be 5G-enabled this year.

By 2021, the same statistics are expected to be applicable across the globe. Xiaomi co-founder Lei Jun recently announced the company is planning to pump $7 billion in 5G, AI and IoT over the next five years.

Earlier, Lei had also revealed that the company is planning to release more than 10 5G phones this year. US-based investment banking and financial service company Goldman Sachs has also forecasted a hefty 200 million 5G smartphone shipments globally this year.

Smartphones
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei’s President for 5G product line, Yang Chaobin believes that 5G smartphones priced around $150 are expected to be launched by the end of 2020 or in early 2021. Wikimedia Commons

The new predicted value is about 20 times more than the sales figure of 2019.

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According to the estimates, there will be about 1 million new 5G base stations in China this year. This is higher than the original 600,000 prediction by Goldman Sachs. (IANS)