South Korea´s three mobile carriers - SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus - held launch events across Seoul for the Galaxy S10, whose base version costs 1.39 million won ($1,200).
Verizon's network will work with Lenovo's Moto Z3 smartphone fitted with a special accessory, while rival USA carrier AT&T launched a 5G-based system in parts of 12 cities in December - although it is only accessible to invited users through a free hotspot device, rather than paying customers with mobiles.
The new network is predicted to drive technologies such as self-driving cars, augmented reality, VR and "smart cities", where sensors help cities to monitor everything from pollution to traffic. "I hope faster speeds will help me manage my time better". Ordinary consumers in South Korea will be able to connect to 5G services starting tomorrow, when Samsung's Galaxy S10 5G, the first smartphone with built-in 5G, goes on sale.
Despite South Korea's claim to have won the battle for 5G bragging rights, Japan's Nikkei business paper said the race may still be too close to call, noting that Verizon's announcement was made at 11am United States eastern time, while South Korea's SK said it had switched on its service an hour earlier. The date for April 5 was selected to start the first 5G service.
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South Korea's top telecom companies SK Telecom, KT and LG U plus launched 5G services at 11 pm local time on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, SK Telecom showed off K-pop stars and an Olympic gold medallist as its first 5G customers.
The implications of the new technology have pitted Washington against Beijing - whose firms dominate 5G technology - in an increasingly bitter standoff.
The US has pressed its allies and major economies to avoid 5G solutions from Chinese-owned telecom giant Huawei, citing security risks that technological backdoors could give Beijing access to 5G-connected utilities and other components.
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None of South Korea's three network operators would say how much they have invested in 5G, but Seoul's economy minister Hong Nam Ki estimate it would be at least US$2.6 billion this year alone.
Some will, no doubt, contend that the South Korean launches have already taken place, with widespread reports of 5G launches in the country on April 3. The US carrier lacks actual 5G phones and can only offer the high-speed services to customers with a Motorola Z3 handset who pay $50 extra for a Snap-on module.
5G is said to herald a new level of connectivity and speed. The service, however, was made available to mobile hotspot devices but is not yet on smartphones.
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