South Korea Pledges $1.5 Billion to Build 5G Wireless Network by 2020

The tech-savvy Asian nation may be the first to enjoy widespread 5G connectivity.

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How many Gs is too many? Well, it depends on what kind of "G" you’re talking about. If you’re talking about gravity, you probably don't want to pass 8 Gs. But if you’re talking about wireless network speed, well, the sky’s the limit... at least in South Korea.

This week, the country's science ministry announced plans to invest a whopping $1.5 billion (1.6 trillion won) in building a nationwide 5G wireless service. Once developed, the network will permit Gigabit (1 Gb/s) transmissions on compatible mobile devices. Put in layman's terms, that's fast enough to download an entire movie in one second, or about 1,000 times faster than existing 4G LTE networks.

Of course, a project like this will take time—six years, according to a statement released by the ministry. But a trial service could be rolled out in certain markets by 2017.

"We helped fuel national growth with 2G services in the 1990s, 3G in the 2000s and 4G around 2010. Now it is time to take preemptive action to develop 5G," the ministry said in a statement delivered to the AFP.

5G will fast enough to download an entire movie in one second, or about 1,000 times faster than existing 4G LTE networks. Tweet It

The effort may seem like fantasy to some, especially since the rest of the world barely begun the transition from 3G to 4G. But given Korea's small landmass and highly evolved tech infrastructure, the goal is more achievable than it sounds. After all, the country already boasts the fastest broadband in the world.

Similar efforts are also underway in Europe and the rest of Asia. Last November, Chinese electronics giant Huawei announced plans to commit some $600 million toward 5G research and development. The same month, builders broke ground on a 5G Innovation Center at the University of Surrey in England. And earlier last year, Samsung announced it had developed a transceiver capable of transmitting wireless data at 1 gigabit per second.

"Countries in Europe, China and the US are making aggressive efforts to develop 5G technology," the report added, "and we believe there will be fierce competition in this market in a few years."

Of course, what constitutes "5G" is still a bit fuzzy: It's a blanket term used to refer to speeds that are impossible with existing consumer technology. Definitions aside, it's inevitable that the demand for faster, more capable services is going to grow in coming years, as billions more people come online, mostly with smartphones. It appears that Korea, at least, will be ready to serve them.

Hero image: Wikimedia Commons, Matt Britt

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