South Korea gets world's first 5G network

(Image Credit: SK Telecom) (Image credit: SK Telecom)

South Korea is launching the world’s first commercial 5G mobile network this week, beating the US, Japan and others to the punch.

SK Telecom will launch its service on Friday alongside the 5G-enabled version of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and will claim to have the fastest speeds, widest coverage and best security of any 5G operator.

The operator is South Korea’s largest and has 34,000 5G-enabled base stations with coverage concentrated in the busiest parts of 85 cities across the country. These include university districts, motorways, subway lines, and sporting venues.

South Korea 5G

There have also been efforts to improve indoor coverage in locations such as shopping malls and airports, with SK Telecom boasting its technology gives it a fourfold advantage over its rivals.

It adds that its network is ready to support ultra-low latency applications such as autonomous vehicles and smart cities and that the combination of 4G and 5G infrastructure enables speeds of up to 2.7Gbps.

SK Telecom plans to offer as much as 7,000 pieces of content that harness the capabilities of these speeds, including 4K video, gaming and Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR).

Strikingly, SK Telecom is offering the same amount of data for less than the equivalent cost on 4G. 

The company, along with two other Korean operators, launched 5G services in South Korea last December. However, these were not mobile broadband services as there were no commercially available 5G handsets.

Samsung was the first major manufacturer to detail a 5G smartphone in February, while a number of others were announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

Verizon launched the world’s first 5G network in the US last year and plans to offer services later this year. Meanwhile, all four UK operators have confirmed they will launch 5G networks in 2019.

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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.