5G is here, but even if you live in one of the few cities around the world where the next-generation mobile network is enabled & apos; you will probably find coverage (and speeds) not spectacular at the moment.
The good news is that you are not alone. We have already tested the new 5G networks in the US and UK, where speeds and connectivity vary enormously, and we have now made our 5G road trip to South Korea.
With a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in hand, we spent three days in the South Korean capital Seoul, tested the coverage and speeds and the results are … just as predictable.
Seoul is considered one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world, but its 5G networks do not seem to be doing better than those in the US and the UK during the first few months of the fifth generation of mobile networks.
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- Hands-on: Samsung Galaxy S10 5G review
Day 1: our first South Korean 5G experience
We receive our Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phone and rush to save, register and set up the phone. Checking the signal, it says it has a full 5G signal. Speed test time.
Our device came with a Korean Telecom (KT) SIM card and it is the only network that we had access to during our time in South Korea.
When we started Fast.com, we noticed that the speeds were enormously variable, with a bottom drop of around 40 Mbps and a peak (at least for us) around 360 Mbps.
Now we were in a room of about 50 journalists who all had the same phone and performed the same tests – so our handset would compete for bandwidth.
The 360 Mbps score, however, is at least promising, but by the time we got back to our hotel, the Galaxy S10 5G only read LTE in the signal bar. Time to charge and prepare ' in the morning for more tests.
Day 2: improvements, in places
Welcome to Day 2, if you've made it that far … well, there is no praise because you didn't get far. Just keep reading, yes?
With a solid day ahead and a lot of movement between the center of Seoul and the suburbs, it's a perfect opportunity to test the length and width of KT & 5G coverage while bouncing on a bus.
5G signal was not available in our hotel, but when we stepped outside, we were given full bars of 5G, and a few speed tests later showed that high speeds were available.
We managed to clock a gigantic 830 Mbps, far exceeding the 4G speeds that you can achieve. However, as we began to move through the city center, the 5G signal jumped many times to 4G and back, and when we reached the suburbs, it seemed that we had left the next generation network behind us.
As with the roll-out in cities in the UK and the US, Seoul has 5G in the center, but it needs to go further.
Day 3: downloads in a flash
Another day and a few speed tests let us reach 5G speeds of up to 700 Mbps.
What does that mean in terms of your use? Well, both WhatsApp and Instagram (both less than 40 MB) are downloaded in an instant – and in these early days of 5G it's fast downloads and buffer-free streaming, which are the clear use cases for the technology.
It's not like we've been waiting for years for apps to download on 4G, but these high speeds are just the tip of the 5G capabilities.
If the networks roll out to more of the population in the coming years and developers start exploring what is possible with a faster, more reliable and almost latency-free network, we see the true power of the network.
But for now, unless you live in a 5G coverage zone in a big metropolis, it's still worth waiting for 5G networks to roll out, and prices drop and more handsets become available before switching to 5G.
We should leave it for at least a year, but if you hold out for 18-24 months, you can find yourself in an even better 5G position.
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