South Korea to launch world’s first national 5G networks
South Korea launches the world’s first fully-fledged 5G mobile networks Friday, a transformational leap that already has superpowers sparring for control of an innovation that could potentially change the day-to-day lives of billions of people.
The superfast communications heralded by fifth-generation wireless technology will ultimately underpin everything from toasters to telephones; from electric cars to power grids.
But while the South has won the race to be first to provide the user experience, that is only one part of a wider battle that has pitted the United States against China and ensnared giants including Huawei.
Hyper-wired South Korea has long had a reputation for technical prowess, and Seoul has made the 5G rollout a priority as it seeks to stimulate stuttering economic growth.
The system will bring smartphones near-instantaneous connectivity—20 times faster than existing 4G—allowing users to download entire movies in less than a second.
In the same way that 3G enabled widespread mobile web access and 4G made new applications work ranging from social media to Uber, 5G will herald a new level of connectivity, empowered by speed.
It is crucial for the future development of devices ranging from self-driving vehicles that send data traffic to one another in real time, industrial robots, drones and other elements of the Internet of Things.
That makes it a vital part of the infrastructure of tomorrow, and the 5G standard is expected to bring about $565 billion in global economic benefits by 2034, according to the London-based Global System for Mobile Communications, an industry alliance.
‘One million devices’
But the implications have pitted Washington against Beijing in an increasingly bitter standoff.
The US has pressed its allies and major economies to avoid 5G solutions from Chinese-owned telecom giant Huawei, citing security risks that technological backdoors could give Beijing access to 5G-connected utilities and other components.
But Chinese firms dominate 5G technology.
Huawei, the global leader, has registered 1,529 5G patents, according to data analysis firm IPlytics.
Combined with manufacturers ZTE and Oppo, plus the China Academy of Telecommunications Technology, Chinese entities own a total of 3,400 patents, it says—more than a third of the total.
South Korea comes next, with its companies holding 2,051 patents.