South Korean operators are set to launch commercial 5G services on Saturday (1 December), making the country the latest to claim a world first regarding the next-generation network technology.
While other countries have already staked their claims on 5G leadership, in some cases this has been using alternatives to the 3GPP-backed 5G NR standard, while in others the definition of “commercial” has been somewhat loose.
IDC analyst John Delaney pointed to the general availability of devices for paying customers as a prerequisite for a true commercial launch, which rules out some of the earlier claimants of first place.
Korean publication Pulse reported SK Telecom (SKT) will offer commercial 5G services to customers in the manufacturing sector, comprising a bundle of mobile router, connectivity and “solution services”. Charges will vary, due to the fact that services will be offered on a bespoke basis.
LG Uplus is also expected to move forward, again offering mobile routers ahead of the introduction of 5G smartphones “after March” 2019. The operator is reported to have deployed more than 4,000 base stations to support services in the greater Seoul area, with the aim of offering nationwide services as smartphones become available.
A recent report said LG Uplus was looking to launch its network on 1 February 2019, indicating it may have been pushed to react to SKT’s plans.
Pulse said a recent fire in a KT facility in Seoul has led to network disruption, meaning it has been focusing efforts on damage recovery. But it, too, will hold an event on Saturday to “celebrate the opening of the 5G network”, although few commercial details were revealed.
Among the other earlier claimers for the 5G crown are Verizon, which is using a non-standard version of 5G for fixed wireless access services; operators across the Middle East; and Elisa in Europe.Subscribe to our daily newsletter