By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq
South Korea successfully launched the world's first 5G phone and 5G network to beat out the United States and other countries in the 5G race.
The country's three mobile carriers – KT, SK Telecom, and LG Uplus – held simultaneous launch events across Seoul for Samsung's Galaxy S10 5G, the first smartphone with built-in 5G technology, which will allow seamless streaming of movies, sports events, games, and virtual reality (VR) applications. By afternoon, 15,000 buyers already had subscribed to the 5G service of LG UPlus, and around 10,000 users subscribed to KT's 5G offer, according to Science Times.
“The government and private companies came together to achieve the world’s first commercialised 5G services and this proves once again our country is undoubtedly the top powerhouse in information and communications,” said You Young-min, South Korean minister for science and information technology, reported The Guardian.
U.S. carrier Verizon, which launched its own 5G services just a few hours later, dismissed South Korea's claim as first to roll out 5G as a mere "publicity stunt."
“They gave phones to six celebrities and they’re trying to say that constitutes a network launch? That’s a PR stunt,” Kevin King, director of corporate communications at Verizon, told Nikkei, as reported by The Guardian. “We launched a network and made 5G devices available for any customers that wanted them. We had devices in stores in Chicago and Minneapolis, and available for purchase online.”
Verizon fast-tracked its 5G rollout in those cities by one week, only to be beaten out by the South Korean carriers, who reportedly intentionally timed their simultaneous launch hours earlier than Verizon’s scheduled launch, enabling their claim of world-first to 5G.
Related, Samsung rival LG Electronics will launch its own 5G smartphone, the V50 ThinQ, later this month in Korea. Verizon's network, meanwhile, will work with Lenovo's Moto Z3 smartphone with a special 5G accessory.
Related, Verizon announced a multi-billion-dollar deal with San Diego, CA, to make 5G available there.
As part of the deal, the company will provide city police and firefighters with 5G-capable devices that will connect with Verizon's network to increase communications, public safety, and response times. The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department reportedly will receive 50 new tablets, while with the San Diego Police Department will get 500 new smartphones in the deal.
Also, Verizon will install 5G technology at five of San Diego's busiest intersections to help with traffic management.
“We are together laying the foundation for a smart city and a smarter city for generations to come,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, per NBC San Diego.
"5G provides traffic analyzing capabilities for us to make traffic flow better in San Diego," added Verizon Senior VP of Engineering Ed Chan. "If that information comes to the car a little too late that's a problem. But with 5G, the car will get the signal quickly on a reliable network."
Automakers are keen not only on equipping their vehicles with 5G technology, but using 5G before the cars even hit the road. German carmakers Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW, as well as other industrial groups, including Siemens and Bosch, have announced plans to build 5G automation systems. They plan to tap mid-band spectrum purposely left out of the spectrum auctions thus far by German regulator Bundesnetzagentur. Volkswagen said this week it will begin installing its own 5G network in its automobile plants next year.
"We will equip the factories from 2020 onwards," a spokesperson for the company was quoted in a report from Germany's WirtschaftsWoche, according to Light Reading.
Meanwhile, Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has asked India to lower spectrum prices to encourage companies to invest in the country's 5G infrastructure, and for the government to earn more revenue, reported the Economic Times and Asia Times. In India, ZTE works with Vodafone-Idea, Bharti Airtel, and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.
Indian authorities have not made the decision to formally ban Chinese company Huawei from selling to Indian telcos, which are calling for a clear ruling from regulators so they can move ahead with their plans to buy Huawei equipment, or to look elsewhere. Following prodding by the U.S., Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia have blocked Huawei on espionage and security concerns.
Interestingly, the U.S. this week eased its calls for allies to ban Huawei outright. Instead of identifying companies by name, U.S. officials now encourages those countries to adopt a Germany-developed plan to make 5G security standards “so strict regardless of the provider that unreliable companies have no chance,” and to only buy equipment from "trusted suppliers," according to Venture Beat, based on a report from Germany’s Frankfurther Allgemeine Zeitung.
This could make it possible for Huawei to sell parts to unlikely customers. One report from Engadget/MacRumors even stated that Huawei is now "open" to selling its new 5G Balong 5000 chipset to Apple. The U.S. company reportedly is facing delays in procuring 5G chips from its current partner, Intel, for its 5G-capable iPhones in 2020. Apple also is not expected to be ready with its own 5G chips until 2021.
U.S. government intervention, however, may not be the correct response to China's perceived threat to take over 5G networks and wrest leadership away from the U.S.
"We won't beat China by aping its command-and-control approach," analyst Rick Boucher stated in a National Review column. "The private sector, not the government, must take the lead, and the primary government role should be to continue selling 5G spectrum to the private sector at auction." He also noted that, "the major carriers in the U.S., with strong government urging, have already decided not to buy core wireless technology developed by Chinese companies."
In other news, the Chinese border patrol unit is working with China Mobile to secure the country's border with North Korea. According to the South China Morning Post, border police manning a checkpoint at Yunfeng Reservoir in Jilin Province will use "new technologies, such as virtual reality glasses, simultaneously updating logbooks, drones, and 4K night-vision monitors to patrol the border when the 5G network." 5G technology will be used to enhance existing measures to stem the flow of refugees and smuggled goods over the border with North Korea.
Ericsson, which is involved in multiple 5G trials and deployments across the Middle East and Africa, foresees 5G as the enabling technology for the realization of so-called Industry 4.0 in the region.
"...the security, high speeds, low latency, and massive number of connections in 5G networks will support smart city and agriculture transformation in many countries in the Middle East and Africa. This will enable new revenue streams from IoT and industrial applications, and accelerate digitalization," wrote Mikael Back, corporate officer, Ericsson, on the World Economic Forum web site.
Forbes contributor Simon Rockman this week wrote about the elephant in the room when it comes to 5G use cases – pornography. He stated that mobile edge computing and low latency AR will make pornography even bigger than it has become through past technologies.
"The real use case development will come from the hub of porn in Los Angeles," wrote Rockman. "So if we want to know what will stress test 5G and are looking at a California for the innovation, we should be looking for innovation from the San Fernando Valley rather than Silicon Valley."