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South Korea moves up 5G mobile network launch to March

Major carriers speed up plans after Samsung reveals S10 phone

Samsung Electronics unveiled its Galaxy S10 smartphones on Feb. 20. One model, the S10 5G, supports fifth-generation wireless technology.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- South Korea will become the first country to offer a smartphone-accessible consumer 5G mobile network, with service expected to start as early as next month, a source familiar with plans at wireless carrier KT said on Monday.

Three carriers and a smartphone maker are discussing a late-March introduction for the fifth-generation wireless communications technology, the source said Monday -- the day the MWC Barcelona trade show opened in Spain. The event was formerly the Mobile World Congress.

Speaking at this week's MWC, KT Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu said the company will introduce true 5G mobile service for the first time in the world.

The rollout partners are likely KT, wireless companies under the SK Holdings group and LG, and Galaxy phone maker Samsung Electronics.

KT had said earlier that 5G service for consumers would start in the April-June quarter. But the timing has apparently been moved up with Samsung's unveiling last week of the Galaxy S10 smartphone line, which includes a 5G model.

The S10 5G is expected to be the only compatible phone when the service starts. Samsung's Galaxy Fold foldable smartphone, which has a 5G version, will make its South Korean debut in May.

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