The first video call on a commercial 5G network in South Korea has officially been made, and a smartphone made by Samsung was the device to do it. To be specific about the device and the network, the call was made on a prototype smartphone from Samsung that bears a striking resemblance to the company's upcoming Galaxy S10 flagship, albeit with a chunkier bezel than leaks so far have shown, and missing the divisive camera hole. The network, meanwhile, was SK Telecom's newly lit up commercial 5G network, brought online and tested in the video below. The call was placed in SK Telecom's network control signal in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, and connected to an employee all the way in the company's Myeong-dong office in central Seoul. That's a distance of about 22.9 kilometers, meaning that the signal had to jump between multiple access points in both long and short range, and it had to do so nearly instantly to produce the video call seen. Some fidelity issues could be noted in the attached video, and these will likely clear up over time as the network is refined and more access points are added.
Background: Samsung has been working closely with carriers around the world to build out commercial 5G technology for quite some time now, especially in its homeland of South Korea. The company has put specific focus on working hand in hand with SK Telecom in developing infrastructure and conducting tests. As such, the circumstances surrounding South Korea's very first 5G video call on a live commercial network are no real surprise. With that said, it's worth noting that all of the major networks in the country have now flipped the switch on 5G, within limited deployment areas. While no market is completely covered yet for obvious reasons, early coverage can be found in some big markets like Seoul and Juju Island. In those areas, those in the coverage area will only be able to gain access to the networks via enterprise accounts, which likely implies a mix of fixed 5G and small cell solutions for now. Consumers will reportedly be able to avail themselves of the networks on compatible devices in March, giving the carriers a bit of time to iron out the kinks before forcing their networks to stand up to the barrage of new traffic that bringing on consumers will bring.
Impact: While South Korea is not the first country in the world to launch a commercial 5G network, with Verizon in the United States beating them to the punch, among others, this deployment is one of the more impactful in how its implications will spread. Deutsche Telekom, for example, noted that it plans to work closely with SK Telecom on future commercial 5G solutions. This nearly simultaneous and large-scale flipping on of commercial 5G networks among the country's big carriers is also a deployment style not seen elsewhere; rather than chip away at deployment and offer small-scale solutions in the beginning, carriers in South Korea are effectively throwing their 5G networks to the wolves and using enterprise customers as beta testers.