By Jun Ji-hye
Korea has been grabbing worldwide attention as a venue for the world's first fifth-generation (5G) networks with telecom companies here moving to launch commercial 5G services Dec. 1.
|ICT Minister Yoo Young-min|
Knowing that 5G commercialization carries an important meaning, the Ministry of Science and ICT has actively supported mobile carriers.
In an interview with The Korea Times, ICT Minister Yoo Young-min stressed the need for the government and companies to closely cooperate to reach the goal.
"The world's first 5G commercialization is very meaningful in that Korea will have an advantageous position in the global market and take the leadership," Yoo said in the interview on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of The Korea Times, Nov. 1.
"Amid intensifying competition among global mobile carriers, it is significant for the government and companies to join hands and reach the goal together."
The nation's three mobile carriers _ SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus _ plan to provide 5G services using mobile routers first rather than smartphones, Dec. 1. The services on smartphones will be available from March next year as initially planned. Mobile routers are devices providing mobile connections for Wi-Fi devices.
"We understand that preparations have been going well in each area such as devices, equipment and services," Yoo said. "We expect the launch of the world's first commercial 5G service to help Korean companies expand into the global market and create relevant jobs."
This will account for about 2.08 percent of GDP that year. The high-end network service will also generate 337,000 jobs the same year, the institute added.
The estimated scale of the Korean 5G market is also expected to play a large role in the global market. According to data provided by Ericsson, the global 5G convergence service market would reach 1,440 trillion won in 2026.
In a bid to explore 5G-based business models, the ministry will invest 86.3 billion won by the end of 2020 and push for diverse 5G convergence services in areas such as self-driving cars, smart factories and disaster management.
Minister Yoo said the government is also working hard to support small- and medium-sized enterprises, as well as conglomerates, to grow together.
For the smooth launch of 5G services, Yoo held a meeting with SK Telecom CEO Park Jung-ho, KT Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu and LG Uplus CEO Ha Hyun-hwoi in July and got an agreement among the three firms to roll out their services on the same day.
Such an agreement was made because it was important for mobile carriers to avoid heated competition for the title of world's first 5G service provider in order for Korea to become the world's first to commercialize the 5G service, he said.
Prior to this, the ministry announced measures in April, under which telecom firms would jointly construct new facilities necessary to begin 5G services and be allowed to install communication cables and repeaters on government-owned locations such as streetlamps and traffic facilities. Under the measures, firms will also provide each other with their existing facilities to jointly use them.
Yoo said these measures were designed to help the firms better afford investment.
The minister also stressed the importance of security issues as "5G will play a role as a nerve network in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and will be applied to a variety of areas such as self-driving cars, medicine and manufacturing."
"To resolve security concerns, the ministry advised telecom companies to enhance security in July," he said. "This month, we will form a 5G security technological advisory council composed of security experts to help telecom firms carry out their own security checks more effectively and support security technology."
Security concerns have been raised over network equipment produced by Huawei as U.S. agencies have long suspected the Chinese government may have installed backdoors in Huawei equipment for surveillance, citing the fact that Huawei's founder is a former officer in the People's Liberation Army.
Regarding the issue, Huawei earlier said it was willing to comply with any of the Korean government's requests to verify security issues surrounding its network equipment.
4th Industrial Revolution
Yoo said the ICT ministry, as a government department that supervises the nation's Fourth Industrial Revolution, formulated "I-KOREA 4.0" last November, suggesting a pan-governmental policy direction.
The ministry has also selected data and artificial intelligence (AI) as areas for strategic investment in a bid to build the foundations for growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
"Base on data, networks and AI, we will do the best to push for 5G and AI convergence services to build an intelligent environment in industries such as medicine, manufacturing and city, and accelerate growth," Yoo said. "We will also make efforts to implement the I-KOREA 4.0 strategy and bring substantive changes to people's lives."
In a bid to enhance cooperation and coordination between relevant ministries, Yoo said a meeting between ministers whose jobs are related to science and technologies will take place to establish plans to innovate the R&D system in each area.
"We plan to apply big data and AI technology to the field of biotechnology to develop a tailored medical system and reduce the time required to develop new medicines," he said. "We will also work to nurture professional personnel in AI, software and big data."
The ICT ministry has been consulting with relevant institutions on the measures for inter-Korean cooperation in ICT and science in line with President Moon Jae-in's initiative to improve ties with North Korea and build a "new economic map" for the Korean Peninsula.
"We will keenly cooperate with relevant institutions to form diverse channels between the two Koreas and push for joint projects in ICT and science when conditions are met, such as the easing of international sanctions on North Korea," Yoo said.
The minister noted that discussions are currently ongoing on the measures of academic exchanges among researchers in the private sector for projects unrelated to sanctions such as a joint study on the possibility of a volcanic eruption at Mount Paektu in the North.
Yoo was inaugurated as the ICT minister in July 2017. He said he has been busy checking measures to respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and visiting diverse sites.
Among those, creating an office for science, technology and innovation under the ministry was one of the meaningful achievements, Yoo said, noting that it would secure a 20 trillion won budget for R&D next year.
"I will continue to do the best so that scientific technology and ICT can contribute to improving the quality of life of the people and generating jobs and growth engines in the future," he said.