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Being competitive matters more than being a first

Posted April. 05, 2019 08:13,   

Updated April. 05, 2019 08:13


At 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday, the tree major mobile carriers of South Korea kicked off 5G smartphone services. The first subscribers for each company were given an opportunity to enjoy the service of Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G, the world’s first 5G smartphone. Following the successfully 5G frequencies transmission in December last year, South Korea became the first country to commercialize 5G smartphones.

Characterized by fast transmission, massive data, and real-time connectivity, the 5G mobile communication is expected to bring a seismic change to lifestyle and trigger convergence and innovations between different industries as the essential infrastructure and platform of the fourth industrial revolution. Some analysis forecasts that the economic value of 5G will have reached around 12.3 trillion U.S. dollars by the year of 2035. For South Korea, of course, the title as “world’s first” bears much significance for its symbolic weight and brand value as it allowed the country to boast its ICT and offered a vantage point to venture into new market.

But the process South Korea underwent to secure the title as world’s first is far from desirable. Originally, the Korean government set the target date for commercialization as late March, but the plan hit an obstacle as the authorization of mobile plans and the release of 5G smartphones were delayed, and Verizon, an American mobile carrier, has stepped in for the number one title. The Korean government chose April 5 as D-day, but after finding out that Verizon changed their D-day to April 4, it scrambled to make an order to the mobile carriers to launch 5G services in the middle of the night. One of the carriers did not even disclose its final information on mobile plans before hosting the first subscriber for 5G mobile service. The typical cart before the horse case resulted from the government’s pressure to lower mobile communication prices and a rough-and-ready administrative approach.

Customers can have their 5G smartphones activated starting on Friday as scheduled, but the service remains limited within the bounds of larger cities. Network devices set aside, in order for 5G technologies to flourish in earnest, it is vital to develop tailored contents and services, but there is still a long way to go. The long-standing regulations such as those on communications and mobile service fees or personal information will also pose an obstacle to 5G services as they did for big data industry. Going beyond the title as the world’s first, South Korea must work hard to improve 5G infrastructure and strive for the world’s best, whereby both accelerating industrial innovation and creating added values.