SEOUL – South Korea will start offering 5G cellular network services in March, making it the first country in the world to commence commercial operations of the next generation mobile internet connectivity, its finance minister said on Wednesday.
The fifth-generation (5G) data transmission speeds are estimated to be up to 50 times faster than those of the existing 4G and LTE networks and the rollout of the service of the most advanced technology is expected to open up new business opportunities for the communication service sector.
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said that the country’s three main telecommunications companies – KT, SK Telecom and LG Uplus – will invest a total of $3 trillion won ($2.67 billion) this year to establish seamless 5G connectivity throughout the country, according to South Korean Yonhap news agency.
KT, South Korea’s largest telecommunications company, had already tested the 5G technology in a restricted area last year during the Olympic Winter Games, which were held in February 2018 in the South Korean province of PyeongChang.
In addition to KT, the other two major telecom firms, SK Telecom and LG Uplus, will also begin to offer 5G services as well as start selling 5G terminals next month.
5G technology can also be used in remote surgeries – successful trials have been carried out during operations on animals – using robots in situations considered dangerous for humans, and cloud gaming.
Since the technology has a low latency, remote control of heavy machinery is also expected to get a real boost and reduce risk in hazardous environments.
Analysts expect Galaxy S10, the latest flagship smartphone of South Korean tech giant Samsung which will be unveiled at the company’s keynote event in San Francisco on Wednesday, to be the world’s first mobile with 5G network support.
Chinese giant Huawei last month also announced that it will present its first 5G smartphone at the Mobile World Congress, which will be held in Barcelona next week.
Huawei’s consumer business group CEO Richard Yu said at a news conference in Beijing on January 24 that the phone will have a foldable screen and will be priced above 1,000 euros ($1,135), although in the future, Huawei plans to launch 5G phones at lower prices.
Yu predicted that such networks would be ready at the soonest by March or April. Huawei’s 5G promises 100 times the speed of 4G networks, and latency reduced to less than a millisecond.