|The limited edition Galaxy S10 Plus was launched in Japan in July in partnership between NTT Docomo and Samsung Electronics commemorating the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Japanese companies have sought to commercialize 5G networks ahead of the Olympics through cooperation with Korean firms but their goal faces uncertainty amid a worsening trade row between the two nations. / Captured from NTT Docomo website|
By Jun Ji-hye
The worsening trade conflict between Korea and Japan is expected to hurt Japanese telecom companies that are pushing to commercialize fifth-generation (5G) network services ahead of next year's Tokyo Olympic Games through close cooperation with Korean mobile carriers and smartphone makers, company officials said Monday.
Japanese telecom companies have engaged in various forms of exchange and cooperation with Korean firms that launched the world's first commercial 5G services in early April.
Among others, Japan's largest mobile carrier NTT Docomo has been benchmarking the success of KT, Korea's largest broadband service provider and second-largest mobile carrier.
The Japanese company joined hands with Samsung Electronics to launch a limited edition Galaxy S10 Plus commemorating the Tokyo Olympic Games in July, with the two companies vowing to enhance their cooperation in expanding 5G-related businesses.
But the Japanese government's latest decision to remove Korea from its whitelist of trusted trading partners is aggravating already troubled Seoul-Tokyo relations, and this could in turn damage relations between companies of the two countries.
Amid tense bilateral relations, the campaign to boycott Japanese products and services here has been gaining steam as well, with some even arguing that Korea should boycott the Tokyo Summer Olympics, scheduled for July next year.
In order to commercialize 5G, smartphones supporting 5G technology are essential. Currently, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and LG V50 ThinQ 5G are the only products available on the global market.
"Even if Japanese mobile carriers complete the construction of 5G networks, they will not be able to drum up new 5G subscribers without 5G smartphones," an official from a telecom company here said, asking not to be named.
Apple, which has had a large market share in the Japanese smartphone market, is expected to develop a 5G iPhone by late next year at the earliest.
Huawei, which rolled out its 5G smartphone on July 26 in China, is now moving to launch the product globally. But it will not be easy for the Chinese company to expand into the Japanese market as the United States, an ally of Japan, has held the company in check amid the U.S.-China trade war.
This means that if the supply of Korean-made 5G smartphones hits a snag, Japan will face setbacks in its attempts to commercialize 5G services ahead of the Olympic Games.
Officials here said Japan's export restrictions are not likely to lead to the blocking of Samsung and LG's exports of 5G smartphones to Japan, but it could be embarrassing for Japanese companies if they need to promote their commercial 5G services running on Samsung and LG's products.
"It will be essential for Japanese companies to work in collaboration with Korean firms, thus it is necessary to closely monitor the development of the situation," an official from a smartphone maker said.