SK Telecom (SKT), South Korea’s largest mobile operator, set up a 200-member taskforce to accelerate rollout of 5G services, with the goal of commercialising the next-generation technology ahead of local rivals KT and LG Uplus.

SKT, with a 48 per cent market share, said it is making an all-out effort to launch 5G services “as soon as possible”, The Korea Times reported. KT, the second ranked mobile player by subscribers, earlier announced plans to commercialise its 5G network by 2019.

The global mobile industry is now set to move ahead with full-scale deployment of the next-generation technology after the first formal 5G New Radio (NR) standard was approved in December 2017. The 3GPP’s highly anticipated 5G NR specifications for non-standalone (NSA) operation features in Release 15 and covers both fixed and mobile applications.

SKT’s taskforce is led by Suh Sung-won, head of its mobile network operation division, with members from the media, IoT and data, and service platform divisions along with its ICT infrastructure institute.

In addition to work on network standards and equipment, the company said the group will also focus on developing business models covering technologies including autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and IoT. SKT said it had already sent requests for proposals to equipment vendors, The Korea Times reported.

SKT’s announcement follows a call earlier in the month by communications minister Yoo Young-min for the country’s mobile operators to work together to ensure the availability of 5G in 2019, and a previously agreed timeline of first commercial operations and nationwide deployment in 2020. The politician also asked the heads of SKT, KT and LG Uplus to lower prices for mobile services.

Trials of the technology are scheduled to take place during the Winter Olympics being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February. At the sporting event, preliminary 5G technologies will enable enhanced spectator experiences including 360 degree VR views from the perspective of athletes and tracking of participants in cross-country events.

The country’s operators are at the forefront of 5G development, with SKT, LG Uplus and KT claiming a number of firsts as the country pursues its aggressive deployment timeline.