Leading smartphone chip manufacturer Qualcomm is expecting the first 5G service to arrive in 2019, a year ahead of previous predictions. The company's chief executive has highlighted that key markets in Asia are likely to pioneer the next-generation mobile standards.

South Korea, Japan and China are among the countries to join the US in launching the first 5G mobile network services. Qualcomm chief executive Steven Mollenkopf on Thursday said South Korea and Japan already have mobile operators gearing up for mainstream network launches in 2019, with China likely jumping on board.

Also read: Celcom, Ericsson launch Malaysia's first 5G network trial

Mollenkopf has noted that South Korea and Japan were the first countries to deliver 3G and 4G services in the previous years, followed by the US, so it makes sense that they would get ahead again this time.

"You will see robust demand in all of those locations, meaning that there are multiple operators wanting to be first and not be left behind," says Mollenkopf in an interview with Reuters. "(Most) will have a different deployment strategy or goal."

China had not been keen to take the front line in previous cellular network upgrades, but Mollenkopf has stressed that the country, being the world's largest smartphone economy, could be in for an early adoption of 5G services.

"What we are seeing in China is a real desire not to be a follower and to launch with everyone else. That's new this time," says Mollenkopf. "From a geopolitical perspective, certain regions of the world just don't want to be late to that game."

The first public showcase for 5G services is believed to take place in February 2018 during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang County in South Korea. With 5G, mobile networks will be able to render faster phone and computer data and network cars, machines, cargo and crop equipment to the internet.