South Korea is striving to retain its lead in global 5G telecom services, as the coronavirus pandemic further cools sentiment of customers whose interest in the technology has waned due to cost and quality considerations.
The Asian country’s telecom operators, headed by SK Telecom and KT Corp, launched the world’s first 5G services precisely a year earlier. And Samsung Electronics, its dominant mobile phone producer, stole a march on gear manufacturers globally by launching the first 5G phone around the same time.
However, after an early growth spurt pushed by generous grants for 5G smartphones, the hype has almost vanished as customers query the worth of pricier handsets and sometimes-spotty 5G services. Now the coronavirus crisis is hitting demand hard.
Sales of Samsung’s new 5G-ready Galaxy S20 phones, which had been launched at the end of February with prices as high as 1,595,000 won ($1,308.81), are down about 30% in South Korea in contrast with early sales of its earlier model S10 series.
Plans for futuristic services reminiscent of autonomous vehicles and fully automated plants and cities could also be affected by 5G delays. Spain, Italy, France and Austria have delayed auctions for the 5G spectrum due to the coronavirus.