SEOUL - South Korea is set to become the first country in the world to start commercial operations of fifth-generation (5G) mobile network services in March, its finance minister said on Wednesday (Feb 20), Yonhap news agency reported.

Mr Hong Nam-ki made the announcement at a meeting in Seoul with senior officials on innovation-led growth.

During the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018, a pilot trial service of the 5G system was conducted by KT Corp, the country's leading wireless and fixed-line services provider. It was reportedly the first trial of its kind in the world, Yonhap said.

5G data transmission speeds are 40 to 50 times faster than the existing 4G network or long-term evolution (LTE) technology, and is expected to open up a wide range of new business opportunities for the communication service sector.

The system also allows greater numbers of people to communicate with one another at the same time and promises to open vast markets for devices and services.

Going forward, Mr Hong also said KT and two other local competitors, SK Telecom and LG Uplus, will invest some three trillion won (S$3.6 billion) in 2019 to set up seamless 5G connectivity in the country.

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