S. Korea launches 5G smartphone networks ahead of schedule

South Korea's telecommunications carriers have 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

SEOUL, South Korea -- 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.

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 in capital Seoul and some other major cities will be able to sign up for 5G services starting on Friday. The carriers plan to expand their coverage to 85 cities across the country by the end of the year.

"The government and private companies came together to achieve the world's first commercialized 5G services and this proves once again our country is undoubtedly the top powerhouse in information and communications," said You Young-min, South Korean minister for science and information technology.

The supposed milestone is widely seen as symbolic. Park Tae-wan, a ministry official, said a "world's first" reference could possibly help the mobile industry market's know-how.