South Korea launches 5G smartphone networks ahead of schedule

However, speculation that United States mobile carrier Verizon might start its 5G services early forced South Korean providers to hastily organise a late-night launch, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The only device available at launch will be the Samsung S10 5G phone.

The technology can offer 20-times faster data speeds than 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks and better support for artificial intelligence and virtual reality with low latency.

Rival US carrier AT&T deployed what it called its 5G E network in 12 cities previous year with speeds faster than 4G networks but below those being deployed in other fifth-generation systems.

In a press release Thursday, the minister also vowed national efforts to maintain the country's leadership in 5G services.

South Korea claimed to be the first country to launch 5G, but that was disputed by U.S. carriers like AT&T, which say they rolled out 5G in limited areas as early as previous year.

With that said, the special 5G edition of Galaxy S10 has now been made available for purchase in South Korea and unfortunately, we don't know the exact date for when the smartphone is going to arrive in the US, Europe or Asia.

Korea on Wednesday launched the world's first super-fast 5G mobile phone service, with connections starting at 11 p.m.

In Japan, 5G is expected to become available in some parts of the country in the summer at the earliest.

A KT technician checks an antenna for the 5G mobile network service in Seoul.

The celebrities - including two members of K-pop band EXO and Olympic ice-skating hero Kim Yu-na - were "the world's first 5G smartphone subscribers", it said.

The implications of the new network have pitted Washington against Beijing - whose firms dominate 5G technology - in an increasingly bitter standoff. However, the phone is likely going to be very expensive (over $1,200 Dollars in South Korea) and it's also hard to hold in one hand.

SK Telecom chief executive Park Jung-ho told the media on Wednesday that the company had secured the widest 5G coverage and, as of 2 April, it had a total of 34,000 base stations.

South Korea has jumped to the forefront of worldwide competition over next-generation 5G network services.

South Korean competitor, LG plans to bring out its first 5G model later this month. The US carrier lacks actual 5G phones and can only offer the high-speed services to customers with a Motorola Z3 handset who pay $50 extra for a Snap-on module.

Cost is likely to be a barrier initially for user uptake, analysts say, as the cheapest version of the new Galaxy handset will be priced at 1.39 million won (S$1,620).