A platform for open innovation

Working in South Korea I have the opportunity to be an early adopter of 5G mobile services. Of course there is a cost for being part of this. The economic cost is not worse than the 4G-alternative on the korean market, but the only available handsets are using Android which for me is an unfamiliar operating system. I would have to make the Big Switch. Having worked with Digital Policy for decades, the promise of new frontiers with the 5G-network is too interesting for me to decline, so I take the leap.

The needs I have as a mobile phone user could be seen as fairly modest. I don’t perform medical operations at a distance and I’m not an autonomous vehicle. I don’t even engage in advanced gaming. But I do expect online services that I need to do work on the move, to be available all the time, everywhere. I do download heavy documents from time to time and probably I’ll even enjoy a 4K video on the Metro every once in a while if it’s possible. 5G will be important for these things but also for other reasons.

5G is different, faster being only one of the differences

For operators with severely congested networks, 5G will increase capacity but even more important in the long run is that 5G is a new platform for open innovation. The step from 3G to 4G was that 4G was faster. The step to 5G is that 5G is different, faster being only one of the differences. We don’t know much today about how this new technological infrastructure being rolled out will be used, what new services and gadgets we will see and how this new generation of digitalization will influence our lives and economies. We do know that it will and it’s one of the reasons that the push for 5G deployment is strong on many markets.

While South Korea is the first national 5G-market to go live it is also available in regions of the USA and other markets will soon follow. Here in Korea, there are three national carriers and they are using technology from four suppliers, all of them competing for market shares in the expected global build out, and using the Korean market to showcase their abilities.

It’s only been a few months since the Korean carriers went live with 5G services in April. And I have noticed from my brief experience of it in and around Seoul, that it is very seldom that the “5G” symbol is lit to indicate my current network, instead of the normal “LTE”. But my phone have interesting functions for “smart things” and the operators show maps for coverage and 5G-applications that is quite more ambitious than what is the reality today.

Where will the 5G-application innovations come from

What will be the killer applications of 5G, and where will the innovations come from? One should think that markets where the infrastructure is rolled out early should have an advantage. Like South Korea. I look forward following innovation, tests and offers of gadgets, services and businesses that show what can be done with 5G. With some patience I would not have needed to make the switch to an unfamiliar OS, but it’s a price that I’m prepared to pay to be with first in to the future.