Determining a winner in the 5G race just gets murkier. On Wednesday, South Korean officials said they had topped the US and China, achieving the first commercial launch of a fifth-generation telecoms network after connecting to a 5G phone. AT&T and Verizon didn't take that well, Reuters reports. AT&T answered later that day, saying it already won when it announced in December that it was kicking off its 5G network in 12 US cities. However, that network can only be accessed by using a mobile hotspot device, not just a 5G phone. Verizon then argued that it was first because it has launched a 5G network that's available only on a new Motorola phone, and only in Chicago and Minneapolis.
The stakes are high. The technology is billed as providing data speeds at least 20 times that of 4G and will fuel other advances like artificial intelligence and self-driving cars. One estimate has it generating $12.3 trillion in annual revenue across a variety of industries by 2035. But at the moment, 5G is still more talk than reality, per the Verge. AT&T released test results showing its network is fastest, but those results could be misleading. And Verizon's rollout suffers from poor coverage. With the hype running ahead of development, the Verge points out, carriers run the risk of ending up with a lot of disappointed customers. (Read more 5G stories.)