Telecom giant Samsung Electronics on Friday released the Galaxy S10 5G, the world’s first available smartphone with built-in fifth-generation communications, as South Korea seeks to build a lead in the transformative technology.
On Wednesday the South became the first country to launch nationwide 5G services, with three superfast networks going live offering data speeds that allow users to download entire movies in less than a second.
Hours later US giant Verizon began commercial services in Chicago and Minneapolis, after rival AT&T made a 5G-based system available to selected users in parts of 12 cities in December.
South Korea’s three mobile carriers – SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus – held launch events across Seoul for the Galaxy S10 5G, whose base version costs 1.39 million won ($1,200).
Interactive virtual-reality displays and robot demonstrations were on show to tout the capabilities of the latest iteration of mobile internet speed, and new users were excited about the possibilities, especially live streaming of sports games and university lectures.
“I watch a lot of videos often, movies and lectures,” said buyer Shim Ji-hye, 38. “I hope faster speeds will help me manage my time better.”
Another user said he was most excited about virtual reality content—which includes games and even “celebrity VR dating” apps according to the country’s mobile carriers.
With 5G, said researcher Lee Sang-yoon, VR content “can be enjoyed in real time with no delay… I’ll be able to enjoy it in better resolution and speed”.
By Friday afternoon, 15,000 buyers had subscribed to the LG UPlus 5G service, and more than 10,000 to KT’s offer, the carriers said.
Figures were not immediately available from SK Telecom, the market leader.
What is 5G ?
5G is the next generation of mobile broadband that will eventually replace, or at least augment, your 4G LTE connection.
With 5G, you’ll see exponentially faster download and upload speeds. Latency, or the time it takes devices to communicate with each other wireless networks, will also drastically decrease.
Now that we know what 5G is, it’s a good idea to understand how it works, since it’s different from traditional 4G LTE.
From spectrum bands to small cells, here’s everything you need to know about the inner workings of 5G.
Unlike LTE, 5G operates on three different spectrum bands.
While this may not seem important, it will have a dramatic effect on your everyday use.
Low-band spectrum can also be described as sub 1GHz spectrum.
It is primarily the spectrum band used by carriers in the U.S. for LTE, and is quickly becoming depleted.
While low-band spectrum offers great coverage area and penetration, there is a big drawback: Peak data speeds will top out around 100Mbps.
T-Mobile is the key player when it comes to low-band spectrum.
The carrier picked up a massive amount of 600MHz spectrum at an FCC auction in 2017 and is quickly building out its nationwide 5G network.
Mid-band spectrum provides faster coverage and lower latency than you’ll find on low-band.
It does, however, fail to penetrate buildings as well as low-band spectrum.
Expect peak speeds up to 1Gbps on mid-band spectrum.
Sprint has the majority of unused mid-band spectrum in the U.S. The carrier is using Massive MIMO to improve penetration and coverage area on the mid-band.
Massive MIMO groups multiple antennas onto a single box, and at a single cell tower, they create multiple simultaneous beams to different users.
Sprint will also use Beamforming to improve 5G service on the mid-band.
Beamforming sends a single focused signal to each and every user in the cell, and systems using it monitor each user to make sure they have a consistent signal.
High-band spectrum is what most people think of when they think of 5G. It is often referred to as mmWave.
High-band spectrum can offer peak speeds up to 10 Gbps and has very low latency.
The major drawback of high-band is that it has low coverage area and building penetration is poor.
Since high-band spectrum trades off penetration and user area for high speed and coverage area, they will rely on small cells.
Small cells are low-power base stations that cover small geographic areas. With small cells, carriers using mmWave for 5G can improve overall coverage area. Combined with Beamforming, small cells can deliver very extremely fast coverage with low latency.
WHO ARE THE MAJOR 5G PLAYERS?
Countries around the world are racing to roll out 5G service. While the U.S., South Korea, Japan, and China will likely be the first with commercial 5G service, other countries will not be too far behind.
Large-scale deployments require huge investments in infrastructure. There are currently six major companies providing network products for 5G deployments around the world.
First up is Qualcomm. This telecommunications giant holds 15 percent of all 5G patents, and surpasses every competitor by a wide margin. From smartphones to small cells, Qualcomm is involved in just about every facet of 5G.
Over the past few years, Qualcomm announced several major pieces of hardware to jump-start the mobile 5G revolution.
In 2016, it launched the X50 5G modem, the world’s first 5G modem.
And at the end of 2018, Qualcomm showed off its Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform — the world’s first commercial mobile platform with multi-gigabit 5G, A.I., and extended reality (XR) capabilities.
In addition to consumer hardware, Qualcomm is creating network solutions. It created the first 5G NR solution for small cells and remote radio heads, and partnered with Samsung to create commercial small cells.
Expect to see Qualcomm power the bus of consumer 5G technology in 2019 and beyond. As of December 2018, the company is working with nearly two dozen manufacturers and carriers to deliver networks and products around the world.
Huawei was once thought to be the initial frontrunner in the 5G race, until it hit some serious obstacles in 2018.
The U.S. blocked the Chinese telecoms giant over security concerns, and it has reportedly been lobbying Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan to follow suit.
AndGermany looks like it may be planning a ban as well.
Still, Huawei has 22 commercial 5G contracts around the world. The telecoms giant claims its equipment is perfectly safe, and that at least some of the bans are due to political issues as opposed to actual security concerns.
Finnish telco giant Nokia is one of the big players in the 5G market.
The company is partnering with carriers and countries around the world to provide 5G network equipment.
Nokia is paving the way with some massive 5G partnerships.
In 2018 Nokia partnered with U.K. carrier O2 to create two Massive MIMO trials in London.
Earlier in the year, T-Mobile signed a $3.5 billion deal with Nokia to build out its nationwide 5G network on its 600MHz and 28GHz spectrum.
And it began 2018 with a bang, announcing it would supply Tokyo with 5G networks for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Swedish telecom Ericsson is also looking to get into 5G.
While the carrier doesn’t have as big of a footprint in the U.S. as other 5G providers, it is working with major Chinese carriers on field trials.
In addition, Ericsson is partnering up with the automotive industry.
In 2018, the company signed a five-year partnership with Volvo to collaborate on a series of 5G connected vehicle initiatives.
When people think of 5G and Samsung, smartphones may come to mind, but the company provides network solutions for carriers as well.
In 2018, Samsung was tapped by Verizon to provide fixed 5G network solutions for the carrier’s first commercial rollout.
The South Korean tech giant was also chosen by AT&T in 2018 to supply AT&T with 5G-ready equipment on the CBRS network.
In addition to U.S. carriers, Samsung is making some pretty big 5G waves around the world.
In late 2019, the company announced it had been selected by South Korea Telecom to supply the company with 5G solutions.
Samsung also, of course, has the Galaxy S10 5G, which will be available from Verizon in the first half of 2019, and to other carriers in the second half.
Chinese telecom ZTE wants to become one of the big names in 5G as well.
In 2018 the company worked with the Chinese government in mid-band and core 5G testing.
The company also inked a deal with Qatari-based carrier Ooredoo Group to provide consumer solutions for its 164 million customers.
Internet of Things
Before Friday’s roll-out of the Samsung phone, the 5G service had been restricted to a handful of specially selected users in South Korea.
Rival manufacturer LG is due to launch its V50 ThinQ, another 5G phone, in the South later this month, while in the US, Verizon’s network works with Lenovo’s Moto Z3 smartphone fitted with a special accessory.
Commercialising 5G gives South Korea the chance to build around the technology, which is crucial for the future development of devices such as autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things.
It is expected to bring about $565 billion in global economic benefits by 2034, according to the London-based Global System for Mobile Communications, an industry alliance.
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.
Chinese entities own a total of 3,400 5G patents – more than a third of the total, according to data analysis firm IPlytics – with 1,529 of those registered by Huawei.
South Korea comes next, with its companies holding 2,051 patents, while US firms have 1,368 together.
Neither KT nor SK Telecom use Huawei technology in their 5G networks, but it is a supplier to LG UPlus, the companies told AFP.