On December 27 2019 An opinion piece was published by the Canberra Times by Paul Fletcher, the federal Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts. In his opinion piece, he assures the readers that “Australians can trust in safety of 5G network” and goes on to enthusiastically describe the many claims made by the promoters of 5G. However, before unquestionably spruiking the industry line, Fletcher should consider the problems encountered in the South Korea 5G rollout. He should also read the well over 400 submissions to the recent government 5G inquiry, the majority of which point out unintended consequences of 5G. But I suppose, for the Australian federal government, soon to auction off parts of the 5G spectrum and rake in many millions for the treasury, knowing too much is not what Fletcher and his government really wants to know.
The Australian, January 1, 2020
1:18PM January 1, 2020
When 5G services launched in South Korea in April, Jang Dong-gil was among the first wave of people to sign up.
Now eight months in, Mr Jang, a 30-year-old tech company worker, has a chilling review for the next-generation technology: 5G hasn’t lived up to the hype.
“I don’t feel the difference,” said Mr Jang, who uses a 5G-enabled Samsung Electronics handset. On many days, he said, he switches off his 5G service altogether because his connection often drops as his phone pingpongs between 5G and the existing 4G LTE network.
For most of 2019, South Korea was home to the vast majority of the world’s 5G users, offering the broadest lessons in what the next-generation network has to offer. Though it is still early in the global rollout, 5G service in South Korea has proved more of a future promise than a technological breakthrough.
5G launched during the past year promising to help power a future of autonomous cars, virtual reality and telesurgery — boasting speeds potentially up to 100 times faster than today’s 4G networks. The next-generation network’s potential has set off a race between Beijing and Washington, which has pressured allies to avoid adopting equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies over national-security and other concerns.
Many countries are scrambling to deploy the superfast network, hoping that homegrown companies can enjoy an early advantage providing new, popular services like those from Uber Technologies, Instagram and Netflix that flourished during the 4G era. Currently, few, if any, 5G apps have emerged that would justify an upgrade by consumers.
Larger countries are just beginning the transition. In the US, 5G services have been rolled out in select cities — though adoption remains modest, requiring consumers to buy a new phone and, in some cases, subscribe to a top-tier, unlimited data plan.
In China, the government has prioritised expanding access to 5G since its launch in November. By the end of 2020, China’s 5G subscribers were estimated to hit 120 million, said Chris Lane, an analyst at Bernstein Research. But initial 5G showcases have been limited to tests such as remote telesurgery procedures or streaming a dance performance in a remote village.
South Korea, by contrast, is much further along and was expected to end 2019 with more than 4.5 million subscribers among a population of 51 million, according to telecom analysts.
In April, the nation’s top three carriers — KT, SK Telecom and LG Uplus — launched 5G service on the same day Verizon Communications debuted in two US cities. From the start, about half South Korea’s population could have access to 5G service after buying a network-enabled device.
On their 5G phones, South Korean users can live-stream sports with a 360-degree view of the action, watching from any angle and in slow motion. Visitors to a Seoul park can summon a giant cat on their phone’s screen as they take in the scenery using augmented reality. Another app lets people gather in virtual-reality rooms to watch baseball games or concerts together.
But such 5G flourishes have yet to draw a large audience, industry analysts say. “There’s no killer 5G app,” said Woody Oh, an analyst at Strategy Analytics.
“As far as adoption goes, we’re still at the very start,” said Julian Gorman, head of Asia-Pacific for GSMA, a trade association for mobile carriers. “We’re eight months into a cycle that’s going to be many years in length.”
For current users, though, a key challenge is simply staying connected to 5G. Architecture student Yun Seung-yeol, 27, is considering switching back to 4G. “For now, I’m not recommending anyone to use 5G,” Mr Yun said.
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