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SKorean carriers switch on 5G networks ahead of schedule

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South Korea’s telecommunications carriers turned on super-fast 5G mobile internet networks abruptly ahead of schedule in an attempt to ensure the country becomes the first in the world to launch the services.

The carriers’ 5G networks went live at 11 p.m. Wednesday, hours before U.S. carrier Verizon turned on its 5G network in some areas of Minneapolis and Chicago a week ahead of schedule. The South Korean carriers had initially planned to start their 5G services on Friday, but moved up to stay ahead of Verizon.

However, the South Korean 5G services were initially available only to a few individuals selected as brand promoters, including figure skating superstar Yuna Kim, who SK Telecom announced as one of its “first customers.” Regular customers will be able to sign up for 5G services starting on Friday.

Carriers say 5G-enabled smartphones are capable of downloading data 20 times faster than existing 4G devices, which in theory would enable users to download movie files almost instantly. The faster networks would also improve live broadcasts and streaming services for music and video while allowing for a broader range of virtual reality services, the companies say.

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