South Korea has demonstrated its technology credentials after it claimed it was the first country in the world to commercially launch a 5G network.
SK Telecom actually launches the 5G network on Friday this week, but its claim to be the first in the world has been disputed by American carrier AT&T, which says it rolled out a “commercial and standards-based” 5G network (in limited areas) in December last year.
It should be noted that the AT&T 5G network was only made available to mobile hotspot devices, but is not yet on smartphones.
5G networks should satisfy today’s increasingly data hungry smartphone world, as 5G typically offers 20-times faster data speeds (sometimes much faster) than long-term evolution (LTE) networks (otherwise known as 4G).
For example, as far back as 2013, Samsung had developed 5G technology that allowed for data transmission speeds of up to 1Gbps over a cellular network.
And 5G speeds should soon be used in the real world after Samsung in February this year revealed the arrival of a 5G model of its flagship Galaxy S10 handset, along with the Galaxy Fold folding smartphone-tablet hybrid.
And now mobile operator SK Telecom has announced at a press conference at its Seoul headquarters on Wednesday the arrival of the 5G as reality for that Asian nation.
Verizon in the US meanwhile is expected to launch its 5G network in two cities on 11 April.
SK Telecom revealed that as of Tuesday this week, it aims to secure the widest 5G network coverage in Korea thanks to the building of 34,000 units of 5G base stations.
“The company has rolled out its 5G network in data traffic-concentrated areas, including main areas of 85 cities nationwide (Seoul, six metropolitan cities, etc.), university districts, KTX, sports stadiums, expressways, subway lines (Seoul and Seoul Metropolitan Area) and beaches,” said the operator.
“In particular, it is expanding in-building coverage centered around 120 department stores, shopping malls and airports throughout the nation,” it added. In the latter half of this year it will expand 5G network coverage to nationwide subways, national parks and festival sites.
SK Telecom said with the development and application of 4G-5G dual connectivity technology, its 5G network can supports up to a staggering 2.7Gbps data transmission speed.
This means for example over SK Telecom’s 4G-5G aggregated network, it would only take 36 seconds to download 12GB of VR content.
And with all the security concerns touted about Huawei and 5G networks, SK Telecom was keen to stress that its new networks is the “the safest 5G network by applying quantum cryptography technologies to eliminate the risk of hacking and eavesdropping.”
So what will all this glorious speed cost the mobile user in South Korea, assuming they have a 5G capable smartphone?
Well SK Telecom’s ‘5GX Slim’ data plan offers 8GB of data at KRW 55,000 (£37) month. The ‘5GX Standard’ plan comes with 150GB of data at KRW 75,000 (£51) per month.
Those who subscribe to ‘5GX Prime’ or ‘5GX Platinum’ will be able to use unlimited data without speed restrictions at KRW 89,000 (£60) and KRW 125,000 (£84) per month, respectively.
“The AR, VR and cloud games unveiled today only mark the beginning of the age of Hyper-Innovation brought by 5G,” said Park Jung-ho, CEO of SK Telecom. “SK Telecom will continue to introduce 5G-based innovative services to lead all areas of new ICT.”
The operator reportedly expects about 1 million 5G customers by end-2019. It currently has 27 million customers in that country.
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