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Northeast Asian powers face off over 5G tech

BUSAN ― South Korea, China and Japan are about to face a tight race to rapidly adopt and commercially launch fifth-generation wireless communications technology ahead of each other as the International Telecommunications Union seeks to standardize it by 2020.

Japan has been gearing up to stay ahead in 5G technology, and plans to showcase its telecom prowess at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, like it did in 1964 when the country broadcast the Olympics via satellites for the first time ever.

Asia’s second-largest economy has set up a forum for the public and private sectors to collaborate in the research and development of 5G technology.

“We are aiming to commercialize the world’s first 5G technology by 2020, when Tokyo holds the Summer Olympics,” Hideo Fuseda, director of Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ standardization division of global ICT strategy bureau, said at the recent 5G Global Summit on the sidelines of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. 
Yoon Jong-rok, vice chief of Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, delivers a speech at the 5G Global Summit, a sideline event at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. (Yonhap)
Yoon Jong-rok, vice chief of Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, delivers a speech at the 5G Global Summit, a sideline event at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. (Yonhap)

China is also aiming to launch the technology using its vast financial and network manufacturing resources before 2020, by which time the ITU has forecast the number of connected devices will reach 25 billion.

“With rapidly growing network and manufacturing companies, and financial capability, China has the potential this time to become an early adopter of 5G ahead of other Asian countries,” said an industry source.

As the world economy heads into an era in which all physical objects will be connected to the Internet, next-generation 5G networks using a broader band of superhigh frequency would be needed to accommodate real-time data streaming and processing.

Users of 5G communications technology can transfer and process data up to 1,000 times faster than those using 4G Long Term Evolution, enabling downloads of ultrahigh-definition content in a second.

“Governments and private sectors worldwide should collaborate in tackling major technology issues concerning 5G standardization and frequency as we prepare for the 5G era,” Yoon Jong-rok, vice chief of Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, said in a speech at the 5G summit on Monday here.

Korea also plans to launch a 5G test service during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and commercialize it by 2020, with Samsung Electronics making its 5G debut.

Industry sources, however, said spectrum allocation remains an issue as 5G would need a high frequency of above 20 gigahertz to process and transfer data like high-speed fiber-optic systems for fixed-line communications.

By Park Hyong-ki (hkp@heraldcorp.com)
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