In the battle to provide the world’s first 5G network, it seems there has been a tie – amid some very last-minute jostling.
South Korea was widely accepted to win the race to establish the first usable 5G network, being set to do just that on Friday 5 April when three commercial networks were scheduled to go live. However, US firm Verizon spotted an opportunity to get in first, so set about rolling out its own network on Wednesday 3 April. Not wanting its momentous moment to be taken away, South Korea then brought forward its launches to at least be joint first.
Despite all this gamesmanship, these roll outs have been largely symbolic. Not only are the networks established in very small areas, they’re also not commercially usable, as 5G devices haven’t yet hit the open market.
Despite all this, the race was on to become the first – and will continue as nations around the world seek to cover as large a percentage of their towns and cities with the connectivity as quickly as they’re able. In the US alone, more than 30 cities could have the connectivity available before the end of the year – when 5G mobiles will eventually become available.
So when will 5G arrive in the UK? Current estimations say we won’t have long to wait, with 16 cities expected to get connectivity some time in 2019. A further 10 cities then look to follow suit in early 2020. Those included in the first roll out will be London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and Manchester.
The reason why carriers are rushing to deploy their 5G networks is the revolutionary impact it could have on our connectivity and society as a whole. Whereas the change from 3G to 4G brought with it promises of faster speeds on our mobiles, 5G opens connectivity up to pretty much anything. It’s expected to help usher in the IoT age (where everything from our cookers and fridges to streetlights and and bins can communicate with users) through increased connectivity. It could also help drive the move towards autonomous vehicles hitting the road.
With so much at stake, it’s little wonder the USA and South Korea pulled out all the stops to try and be declared first.