5G networks are now just a year away

Korea Telecom (KT) is to launch a commercial 5G service in South Korea in March 2019, meaning the launch of next generation networks is only a year away.

It had been thought that the first commercial networks would go live in 2020, but thanks to progress in the standardisation process, several operators announced plans to launch in 2019. And now KT wants to deliver it as soon as possible.

The company built a live 5G network for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang last month with the help of Intel, with 22 5G links at 10 sites delivering 3,800TB of network capacity, powering applications such as virtual reality (VR) broadcasting.

Korea Telecom 5G

KT has said it wants to deliver a “perfect” 5G service by building nationwide infrastructure that will deliver capabilities well beyond 4G.

"It is true 5G only when coverage is guaranteed," Oh Seong-mok, president of KT's network business division, told the Yonhap News Agency. "KT will launch the 5G service for the first time in the world, combining true mobility, excellent service and nationwide coverage.”

However it will take a while to rollout the infrastructure to deliver “true” 5G services that deliver the headline improvements in speed, capacity and latency, so it’s likely that major cities will benefit first.

Meanwhile, the first devices capable of using the networks won’t be available until later this year at the earliest as component and device manufacturers work on getting them into the hands of consumers and businesses.

In the UK, the first auction of mobile spectrum started this week, giving operators a chance to get their hands on 3.4GHz spectrum that will power the first generation of 5G. It is not expected that a commercial service will go live in the UK before 2020.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.