April 05, 2019 13:49
Korea by some reckoning became the first country in the world to offer commercial 5G mobile phone services on Wednesday night. The service was scheduled to start at midnight on Friday, but the government abruptly pushed it forward after a tipoff that Verizon of the U.S. was going to steal a march on Korea and bring its own launch forward by a week. But all the escapade has exposed is the folly of the current government.
SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus had originally planned to roll out commercial 5G services in late March. But at the time the government put the brakes on them because it felt their service charges were too high. In other words, government meddling first slowed the process down and then frantically speeded it up, like a slapstick film.
5G mobile connections are supposed to be 20 times faster than 4G services and will constitute a main artery for future technology. They are essential for self-driving cars and smart factories, cities and healthcare. Countries that really gain an early edge in 5G technologies could become the leaders of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Korea got a head start in the headlines by connecting a handful of celebrities this week, but in reality the U.S. and China are already far ahead because they are building proper networks for all and have more technology.
According to a U.S. report, Korea did rank first along with China last year in terms of 5G competitiveness but fell to third place this year. Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese companies now hold the bulk of core 5G-related patents. The U.S. and China have outpaced Korea because their governments responded swiftly to remove red tape.
Korea needs to get ahead in the technology race so consumers here can reap the benefits of the latest innovations. But the government is fixated on populist stunts aimed at making everything cheaper, yet without tearing down red tape which for example prevents businesses from gathering crucial big data and conducting remote medical services. Korean experts who toured Japanese companies were alarmed at how far they had progressed in terms of 5G technology. How much does the government here really care?
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