S. Korea launches 5G smartphone networks ahead of schedule

"We have proved again that South Korea is the strongest country in information and communications", Science and ICT Minister Yoo Young-min said in a statement after a small number of people selected by three mobile carriers opened 5G mobile phone accounts Wednesday night. Kim became the world's first 5G subscriber Wednesday at 11 p.m. when she registered her new Samsung phone.

The new network is predicted to drive technologies such as self-driving cars, augmented reality, VR and "smart cities", where sensors help cities to monitor everything from pollution to traffic.

South Korea has claimed it beat the USA by a matter of hours to become the first country to roll out a super-fast 5G mobile network, which allows users to download entire moves nearly instantaneously.

South Korea claimed to be the first country to launch 5G, but that was disputed by United States carriers like AT&T, which say they rolled out 5G in limited areas as early as a year ago. On Wednesday, Verizon of the U.S. said it launched the world's first 5G service.

The 5G networks of the three South Korean mobile operators went live at 11 p.m. Wednesday, hours before USA carrier Verizon turned on its 5G network in some areas of Minneapolis and Chicago a week ahead of schedule.

It 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.

The global telecom industry is now debating on how many subscribers will buy 5G from Verizon that will be available on Motorola's Z3 and a Moto Mod.

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

South Korea's launch this week of national fifth-generation wireless services is about more than just bragging rights.

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

SK Telecom chief executive Park Jung-ho told the media on Wednesday that the company had secured the widest 5G coverage and, as of 2 April, it had a total of 34,000 base stations.

Qatari firm Ooredoo says it offers 5G services in and around Doha - but does not have devices available to use them.

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.

Meanwhile in the US, Verizon is offering the Moto Z3 with a 5G Moto Mod.

  • Kara Saunders