Be the best, not the first

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Be the best, not the first

The 5G wireless network is being dubbed the bloodline to power the new industrial age of big data, future mobility and automation. It must provide superfast and seamless mobile services for big data, smart cities, digital health care and other future industries. Korea managed to snatch the title of being the first in the world to offer commercial wireless service through the launch of 5G-based smartphones.

President Moon Jae-in joined the “Korea 5G Tech” ceremony to celebrate the feat. The government unveiled an ambitious outline to capitalize on its fast 5G move to promote base industries that can generate an output of 180 trillion won ($157 billion), 600,000 jobs and exports of $73 billion by 2026. The government has announced a plan for the private and public sectors to invest more than 30 trillion won by 2022 to upgrade connectivity across the country with 5G by 2022. The government hopes 5G will drive innovation-led growth.

Despite all the fanfare, business has started off poorly. Base stations are insufficient. Consumers who shifted to expensive new phones and 5G deals don’t see the difference in speed and connectivity. Infrastructure upgrades remain concentrated around the capital and large cities. Wireless carriers are refusing to share their coverage maps, keeping consumers in the dark.

Over-competition has also muddled up the market. Wireless carriers have shelled out generous subsidies under government condoning of their violation of the wireless service act to help the 5G launch. All the carriers are pitching unlimited service packages, but, in reality, they control speeds depending on the customers’ data usage. They also lack in their ability to offer virtual and augmented reality environments. Due to laggard contents and services, most consumers do not feel the immediate need for their shift to 5G devices.

The Global Times of China predicted China will end up the winner in the 5G race, citing its edge in nationwide network, broader phone choices, and cheaper price offerings. Chinese competitors Huawei and ZTE think they can beat Korean rivals in 5G technology.

Problems are inevitable in the fledgling stage. The “best” title is more important than the “first” title. To remain in the lead, services and competitive technologies will be essential. Regulations still get in the way of telemedicine and self-driving mobility. The government must remove regulations in line with promotions for corporate investment to stay in the leading group.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 9, Page 30
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