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Asia300

South Korea's KT to launch 5G service for businesses next March

Carrier eyes world's first mobile 5G with consumer roll-out by summer

Oh Sung-mok, president of KT's network division, told reporters Thursday that the carrier will make 5G available to corporate customers in March 2019. (Courtesy of KT)

SEOUL -- South Korean telecom company KT will launch a 5G wireless service for business clients early next year, potentially giving the country a head start on the development of "internet of things" systems built on the superfast data communications technology.

Fifth-generation service for corporate customers will begin in March 2019, followed by a service for consumers that supports smartphones between April and June, Oh Sung-mok, president of KT's network division, told a news conference Thursday. The network will initially cover major metropolitan areas such as Seoul. Rates will be announced later.

The top two U.S. wireless carriers, Verizon Communications and AT&T, have said they plan to roll out 5G as early as this year. But Oh argued that Verizon's planned fixed-wireless service, which cannot be used by smartphones or cars, should be considered "pre-5G." KT will be the world's first company to commercialize mobile 5G, he said.

The South Korean carrier envisions its commercial service finding use in such applications as smart factories that analyze data from cameras and sensors to boost productivity, as well as for high-quality advertising displays on trains. Oh also said Thursday that KT will join with small and midsize startups inside and outside South Korea to set up a body as soon as next month to discuss commercialization of 5G technology.

During the Pyeongchang Olympics in February, KT showcased 5G technology based on its own specifications, which the carrier says largely match the international standard template developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project. The know-how gained from this trial run will help KT bring the service to market sooner, according to the company.

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