South Korea, Japan, and China race to 5G dominance
East Asian economic giants South Korea, Japan, and China are all eyeing to be the first nation in the region to successfully utilize and, possibly, commercialize 5G, the next-generation internet network technology.
In China, the government’s goal is to obtain internet speeds 10 times faster than its current 4G network before 2016 ends. However, experts believe that China has still need to enhance its Internet infrastructure upgrade plans as it remains comparably dismal compared Japan’s and South Korea’s.
Its main predicament, as stated by tech writer Tony Myers, is its geographical size.
“It only has three main gateways—in the north near Beijing, in Shanghai in the center and the third in the southern province of Guangzhou—and all traffic that passes through these gateways is monitored by government computers, further slowing down packet speeds.”
Even local telcos believe that China remains behind the competition. Maggie Cui of ZTE said that the Chinese government needs to focus more on improving its 4G speed before jumping to another daunting mission.
“There is still some way to go before we can have a globally recognized 5G standard but I think we can apply some mature advanced technology to existing 4G network before we officially enter the 5G era,” Cui told The South China Morning Post.
She also suggested that one of its biggest problems is the imbalance between its immense mobile market and backward Internet infrastructure. China, now ranked 111th in global Internet speeds ranking by Akamai, still believes that it will have 5G by 2020 despite ongoing problems in its telecommunications sector.
South Korea, currently the country with fastest Internet speeds, aims to conduct its first live trial of 5G speed at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018. Just recently, the country’s government encouraged its local telecom operators to invest more money in research and development to become more prepared in 5G’s possible utilization at the said global event. However, what the government wants is to continue enhancing 4G LTE as it transitions to a higher level of network technology.
“Global 5G standards will not be available until 2020 and 5G is expected to maintain its compatibility with LTE, and thus, more investment in LTE does make sense. Nowadays, with mobile carriers’ investment in networks on the decrease, it is preferable that they improve their service quality and assist in the business of smaller firms in the industry by stepping up their investment,” SoKor’s ministry of communications told Business Korea.
Local telco carriers are disappointed with the government’s statement, saying that it could hinder their investment in new 5G technologies. However, they remain adamant on becoming the first nation, if not just Asian country, to successfully utilize 5G on a country-wide scale.
SK Telecom, its leading Tier One network provider, has just completed a successful 5G trial with leading mobile phone manufacturer Samsung. This is considered a feat since it found out that it could efficiently transmit radio signals by using 28 GHz technologies. This brings the country several steps closer to its goal of testing 5G for Internet of Things (IoT), holograms, as well as advanced virtual reality (VR) technologies.
“Samsung will prove the feasibility of key technologies with SK Telecom. This strategic collaboration will lead to the early adoption of 5G communications and provision of immersive service experience to end-users,” Cheun Kyung-whoon, executive vice-president for research at Samsung Mobile, told ZDNet.
Japan, on the other hand, has a similar achievement with DoCoMo, the country’s largest wireless carrier. The Japanese telco has finally fixed the first issues it encountered with its first 5G trial with other tech firms Ericsson and Fujitsu. It can now transmit data via beamforming and beamtracking, a five-Gbps technology it recently designed with Finnish technology company Nokia.
According to the company, it is the first successful 5G transmission in a commercial complex, making it highly essential in the Internet speeds milieu. “To date, no test had achieved a 5G data transmission in a commercial complex, such as a shopping mall, due to problems with base stations being out of the line of sight and diffused reflections causing the attenuation of highly directional millimeter signals,” it said in a statement published by Android Authority.
The Japanese government plans to launch 5G by 2020, two years behind South Korea. The preparation will begin with a 4G network speed that is ten times faster its current rate, which will be distributed by local telcos to its consumers beginning this year. Also, the country is in partnership with the European Union, which is essential in defining 5G’s definition and creating future applications and ecosystems for its effective utilization.
The competition between these countries has become an enticing playing field for the companies in the network extender segment. Leading this niche is 5BARz International (OTCQB: BARZ) whose network extender—a plug-and-play device— convinced Tier One telcos in India to tap their services to enhance signal strength for each consumer. The US-based company’s main goal is to expand across the globe to help them as they improve their infrastructure and transition to higher network technology.
Still, it’s not just about the evident fact that South Korea leads the competition. Indeed, the recent competition between these three giant nations shows that the Asian region can also get ahead of the global 5G race and that it is not just about the US and the economic superpowers of Europe.