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24 July


South Korea hopes to commercialize 5G amid IoT boom

Country aims to commercialize 5G Wi-Fi in October

5G Photo: AP

/NOVOSTIVL/ South Korea and the United States have upped the ante to become the first to commercialize fifth-generation (5G) Wi-Fi.

The reason for this is that much of 5G's long-term value is its use for the internet of things (IoT) - the industrial sector is a potentially important adopter making use of its speed, reliability, coverage and bandwidth. The key debate is where and when 5G adoption will take off, eventually.

The government plans to allocate the 6-gigaherz (GHz) frequency currently unused by telecom and broadcast companies for 5G Wi-Fi, also known in Korea as "Wi-Fi 6E," which is expected to be commercialized in October this year.

In the United States, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it also plans to allocate the 6GHz frequency for 5G Wi-Fi. Seoul and Washington's investment in 5G-enabled telecom networks is due to leading tech companies in North America, Europe and Asia are actively pursuing "Industry 4.0" initiatives and 5G capabilities are widely expected to help in establishing IoT networks.

Specifically, General Electric, Boeing, Tesla, BMW, Huawei, Foxconn, Toyota, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon Web Services and Alibaba are all considered as either "leading adopters" or "most popular vendors" in terms of moving forward with 5G.

The U.S. is ahead in terms of the semi-conductor technology for 5G Wi-Fi, but industry experts believe Korea is a step ahead in equipment and Wi-Fi router development.

Industry analysts are focusing on the benefits of 5G Wi-Fi once the technology is commercialized, as 5G itself is in its early stages in household and factory use, and they see adoption as only ramping up gradually. The analysts note that retrofitting existing manufacturing systems with 5G Wi-Fi would be too costly and so adoption will likely take place at the end of equipment lifecycles. This also means that industrial adoption may not take off as fast in the United States as demand there for building new factories from scratch is not that strong.

But in terms of specifications, 5G Wi-Fi standardizes the" 802.11ax" Wi-Fi technology service at over 6GHz or high frequencies. The maximum speed is three times faster than the current Wi-Fi at 9.6 gigabytes per second (Gbps) and connection delays are reduced. When downloading a 1 gigabyte video, it currently takes around 15 seconds to 25 seconds, but with the 5G Wi-Fi it will be reduced to 5 seconds to 9 seconds in the most ideal scenario.

Telecom companies believe the commercialization of the 5G Wi-Fi will help the further growth of 5G coverage focusing on consumer products, first, as a litmus-test before heading to the industrial sector.

The country's top three mobile carriers - SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus - will invest more to expand 5G Wi-Fi coverage as they believe the advanced telecom technology could cut the burden on 5G investment. The current mainstream 28㎓ frequency is short-ranged making it difficult to connect all parts of an office and a home.

In order for all homes to have smooth 5G connectivity, there needs to be a miniature 28GHz base station installed in each home, which will need additional tens of trillions won in investment, officials at telecom companies said, adding the wide adoption of 5G Wi-Fi will help consumers address key pending issues such as slow connectivity.

"Local small-mid size venture companies have started development of diverse Wi-Fi 6E (5G Wi-Fi) telecom equipment and content while the conglomerates are developing suitable smartphones," according to the Ministry of Science and ICT.