Korean mobile service providers are expected to launch commercial 5G services on December 1 this year, four months ahead of the initial schedule.
The Ministry of Science and ICT said on Oct. 2 that the three Korean mobile operators will initially provide 5G services using mobile routers rather than smartphones. It said 5G services based on smartphones will be available next March as originally planned.
The coverage of the initial 5G services will also be limited as 5G network building would take time, the ministry said.
Mobile routers are simple devices capable of mobile connections. Mobile routers connected to 5G networks can be used as WiFi devices. They support handover, making it possible for people to enjoy mobile telecommunication services between base stations without call drops even when they are on the move.
"There is no reason for the government to say ‘no’ to the mobile service operators’ plan to provide commercial 5G services via mobile routers," said Jeon Seong-bae, head of the Planning and Coordination Department at the Ministry of Science and ICT. "Their services will be recognized as the world's first commercial 5G services as mobile routers provide mobility, the key requirement for commercial 5G services," he added.
Jeon met with reporters to explain the government’s 5G commercialization schedule and the three Korean mobile operators’ plan to advance the launch date of their services.
December 1 is the date when the mobile operators can begin to use the radio frequencies allocated for commercial 5G services. By then, they would not be able to deply their 5G networks nationwide. And proper 5G smartphones will not be available either. Nevertheless, the three mobile operators are pushing to launch commercial 5G services on December 1 using mobile routers because they do not want to give the title of the world’s first provider of commercial 5G services to telecom companies in other countries. For that matter, the Korean government is in the same position.
In the United States, mobile carriers are accelerating the commercialization of fixed-type 5G services that do not support handover. On Oct. 1, Verizon officially launched fixed wireless 5G services in Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento. AT&T is also pushing to start 5G services based on router terminals within this year.
"Handover divides fixed 5G telecommunication and mobile 5G telecommunication," said Choi Woo-hyuk, head of the Information, Telecommunication and Broadcasting Technology Policy Department at the Ministry of Science and ICT. This implies that the fixed 5G wireless services introduced by Verizon cannot be regarded as proper 5G mobile services.
According to the KT Economic Research Institute, the commercialization of 5G will generate 47.8 trillion won in social and economic effects in Korea by 2030. Ericsson expects the convergence service market based on 5G commercialization to reach 1,440 trillion won in 2026.