South Korea gets 5G head start as US, China spar over Huawei


SEOUL • South Korea’s launch this week of national fifth-generation (5G) wireless services is about more than just bragging rights.

By beating the US and China to the punch, it provides a major selling point for Samsung Electronics Co Ltd against Apple Inc in premium smartphones and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd in the market for mobile network gear. It provides a chance for South Korean firms to show off their know-how and lay the groundwork to set standards and capture sales in a global 5G services market expected to grow to US$123 billion( RM501.97 billion) by 2025.

“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 VP at SK Telecom Co, South Korea’s biggest carrier. “5G provides a chance for South Korea to take a leap again.”

SK Telecom starts its 5G service and Samsung begins selling a 5G-capable phone today, marking the world’s first full commercial roll-out. The kickoff coincides with a technology race between the US and China over next-generation technology, a point underscored by US President Donald Trump administration’s voicing of concerns about Huawei and its gear.

While South Korea is the first with 5G across the country, Verizon Communications Inc started services in Minneapolis and Chicago overnight.

The US carrier lacks actual 5G phones and can only offer the high-speed services to customers with a Motorola Z3 handset who pay US$50 extra for a snap-on module.

Officials from carriers such as Deutsche Telekom AG and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd have visited South Korea to check out 5G tests, Yang said.

The fact that the country is much smaller than the US or China makes it a cost-effective test-bed for national networks, he said. — Bloomberg