South Korea claims it launched 1st 5G wireless network in the world, beating Verizon

The country's telecommunications carriers launched the service Wednesday night.

South Korea’s major mobile operators abruptly launched the superfast fifth generation wireless technology services ahead of schedule Wednesday evening -- and claimed the world's first 5G service by releasing it an hour before Verizon.

A tit-for-tat race between three South Korean telecommunications carriers and Verizon started when the South Korean government set the launch date for Friday, exactly a week before Verizon had planned to roll out its 5G services.

But by Wednesday afternoon local time, South Korea’s ministry of science and ICT was tipped from a source in the United States that Verizon would be attempting a surprise launch late in the evening, according to local reports.

Alarmed by Verizon’s sudden change of plans, South Korean mobile carriers called for an emergency meeting with the ministry Wednesday evening, reports said. The three mobile carriers -- SK Telecom, Korea Telecom, and LG U+ -- promptly decided to launch their services immediately.

The 5G phone service -- for a handful of celebrities including Yuna Kim, the Olympic medalist in figure skating, Baekhyun from k-pop boy band EXO -- was launched Wednesday at 11 p.m. local time (10 a.m. EST).

Just 59 minutes later, on Wednesday at 10:59 a.m. EST, Verizon tweeted the start of its 5G network in Minneapolis and Chicago.

"5G is here," the company. "For 19 years Verizon has been making history. Today is no different. Chicago and Minneapolis are first in the world to 5G mobility."

"Title of being ‘world’s first 5G’ may bring a promotional effect for one company [like] Verizon, but for South Korea it’s a publicity for the entire country,” Kim Yeon-Hak, an internet technology expert who is teaching at Sogang University, told ABC News. “Electronic companies like Samsung, the factories, production lines, contents that goes inside 5G phones … they believe everything that is constituting the IT ecosystem will meet a new era under 5G network.”

The new 5G technology enables dramatically faster download speeds with almost no delay in watching videos or loading pictures. It has data transmission speeds 20 times faster than the current 4G long-term evolution (LTE) wireless technology.

For businesses sectors, the superfast wireless technology will offer improved support for artificial intelligence, media content, robotic factory lines, remote medical services and telepresence conference calls that enables hologram communications seen in movies like “Captain America” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”

Mobile carriers are competitively developing and introducing photorealistic live streaming services and virtual reality experiences to prove that 5G network is a change that is worth the cost of purchasing a new phone and plan.

South Korea’s new service will work on Samsung Electronics’ new 5G-enabled smartphone Galaxy S10. LG Electronics plans to introduce its own 5G smartphone later this month.

Verizon’s Ultra Wideband network customers must use Motorola’s Z3 and a “5G Moto Mod,” an accessory that allows Z3 to connect to the 5G Ultra Wideband network.

While the competition over the publicity on 5G network is intense, mobile technology experts warn that the launch of 5G service is only a beginning.

“The faster speed won’t be that much of a dramatic change for average consumers. But 5G could really make a difference in self-driving automobiles and remote services in terms of high reliability and precision,” Kim told ABC News.

ABC News' Hansol Park contributed to this report.