SK Telecom and Samsung Bring South Korea Closer to 5G Standalone Commercialization

The two companies successfully completed interoperability test between 5G Standalone Core and Commercial Network Solutions (based on 3GPP Release 15 which is not 3GPP’s final submission to ITU-R for IMT 2020 RIT/SRITs.

SK Telecom and Samsung Electronics today announced the successful completion of South Korea’s first interoperability assessment between 5G Standalone (SA) Core and other commercial network systems over a pre-standard 5G network. This successful result brings the two companies one step closer to 5G SA commercialization.

The 5G SA Core, jointly developed by SK Telecom and Samsung Electronics, not only supports technologies including network slicing and function modularization based on 3GPP standards, but also offers additional functions that operators have been using since LTE, include billing, subscriber management and operational convenience system. The interoperability assessment is the final stage for verifying the validity of 5G SA data transmission, signifying that the SA system is ready to be launched for commercial service.

Both companies implemented several cutting-edge technologies in the 5G SA Core that has been used for the interoperability. The technologies include Data Parallel Processing technology that performs QoS and transmission control simultaneously; Data Acceleration technology that classifies and distributes similar traffic types; and Path Optimization technology that automatically delivers data traffic to Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) platform.

“Along with the initial phase of NSA rollout, SK Telecom has been continuously focusing on researching and developing the SA technology in order to provide customers a differentiated service quality with innovative products, which will be launched in the first half of next year,” said Park Jin-hyo, Chief Technology Officer and Head of ICT R&D Center at SK Telecom. “By strengthening bilateral collaboration with Samsung, SK Telecom will drive and lead highly innovative 5G technologies and solutions.”

“The fundamental structure of 5G SA is built on a completely new configuration, successfully delivering the most optimized 5G service to customers and enterprises across numerous industries,” said Jaeho Jeon, Executive Vice President and Head of R&D, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. “Maintaining Korea’s leadership in network innovations through continuous investments in next-generation technologies is important to Samsung and SK Telecom, and the companies will continue to collaborate on developing and commercializing 5G SA.”

Once 5G SA is commercialized, data processing efficient will be improved by threefold, allowing efficient control for supporting massive data traffic. Moreover, 5G SA system is highly optimized for emerging next generation services such as Autonomous driving, Smart Factory, Smart Farm, and AR/VR.

For the past five years, the two companies have been collaborating on LTE and 5G development, which ultimately led to this successful 5G SA Core interoperability test. Some of other accomplishments include the commercialization of Virtualized LTE Core and Packet Optimization system; and they have completed the development of 3GPP Rel. 15 based SA Core in July last year, and successfully launched 5G NSA commercial service in April this year.


About SK Telecom:

SK Telecom is the largest mobile operator in Korea with nearly 50 percent of the market share. As the pioneer of all generations of mobile networks, the company has commercialized the fifth generation (5G) network on December 1, 2018 and announced the first 5G smartphone subscribers on April 3, 2019. With its world’s best 5G, SK Telecom is set to realize the Age of Hyper-Innovation by transforming the way customers work, live and play.

Building on its strength in mobile services, the company is also creating unprecedented value in diverse ICT-related markets including media, security and commerce.


For more information, please contact:

[email protected] or [email protected].


Media Contact

Yong-jae Lee

SK Telecom Co. Ltd.

(822) 6100 3838

(8210) 3129 6880

[email protected]

Irene Kim

SK Telecom Co. Ltd.

(822) 6100 3867

(8210) 8936 0062

[email protected]

Ha-young Lee

BCW Korea

(822) 3782 6421

[email protected]


5 thoughts on “SK Telecom and Samsung Bring South Korea Closer to 5G Standalone Commercialization

  1. South Korea:

    The Republic of (South) Korea announced for the goal of the world’s first commercialization in February 2018 and finished auction for 5G Spectrum in Jun. 2018 and certified 5G base station equipment in September 2018 and launched 5G service using mobile routers first in December 2018.
    The new milestone of 1 million 5G subscribers was reached on 10th June 2019, 69 days after Korea became the first country in the world to officially launch 5G commercial services on April 3, 2019.

    Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) announced the 3rd plan (from 2019 to 2023) on January 25, 2019. The master plan for radio waves promotion is mid- and long-term spectrum policy for every 5 years. The potential additional candidate bands for 5G are divided into two parts, below 6 GHz bands and above 24 GHz bands.

    (Band below 6 GHz)
    – 2 300 2 390 MHz (former WiBro service band)
    – Adjacent band(s) with the 3.5 GHz band (e.g. 3.4-3.42 GHz and 3.7-4.2 GHz, portions thereof)
    – Portion(s) of 1 452 1 492 MHz band
    – If necessary, prepare supplementary supply plan such as 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz band etc.
    (Band above 24 GHz) To secure additional 2 GHz bandwidth, Korea is considering the availability of equipment/terminals and WRC-19 results
    Table Planned schedule
    ‘19 ‘20 ‘21 ‘22 ‘23
    5G Allocation 2.3 GHz band Adjacent band(s) with 3.5 GHz band 1.4 GHz band Bands above 24 GHz
    (2G-4G) Existing bands

    5G+ Strategy
    MSIT and nine other related ministries jointly announced the “5G+ strategy” at the “Korean 5G Tech-Concert” on April 8.
    The vision of 5G+ strategy is realization of innovative growth through 5G+ and the goal is achieving 180 trillion won in the production of 5G+ strategic industry by 2026 (15% of the global market share)
    The Korean government is planning to foster 15 5G-based “strategic industries” to create 600 000 jobs and export $73 billion worth of goods and services by 2026.

    The 15 industries consist of five “Key services” and 10 “Key industries”. The five key services include immersive content, smart factory, autonomous vehicles, smart city and digital health care, while the 10 key industries include network device, next-generation smart phone, AR·VR Device, wearable device, intelligent CCTV, future drone, connected robot, 5G V2X, information security and edge computing.
    5G frequency allocation in Japan:
    Toward the launch of 5G in 2020, MIC (Ministry of Internal affairs and Communications) allocated frequency for 4 operators.
    China (People’s Republic of):
    On 6th June, MIIT of China issued 5G commercial licenses to four major operators, which are China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Broadcasting Network.

  2. FT: South Koreans complain at poor quality of 5G network.
    Country has 77% of world’s 5G users but service is patchy.

    The world’s first and largest 5G mobile network has come under fire from customers for poor quality, slow connections and lack of applications that use the new technology. South Korea launched 5G in April 2019 and more than 1.6m people had switched to the new service by the end of June, accounting for 77 per cent of the global population of 5G users, according to GSMA, the industry body.

    There are 14 times as many South Koreans using 5G as there are Americans, because of aggressive marketing by telecoms operators and generous subsidies. There are 63,000 5G base stations in South Korea – just 7 per cent of the number of 4G stations.

    But consumers are now complaining that the promise of internet speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G has so far not been met. Users said they often have weak signal and poor connections instead.

    “It seems faster to download a movie than 4G phones but not as fast as I expected,” said one office worker at a telecoms company.

    “And I have experienced some connection problems as well in some areas. I don’t see a big merit of the expensive phone as there are not many specialised contents.” 

    Analysts explained that so far there are not enough base stations for nationwide coverage.

    “The number of base stations falls short of demand,” said Kim Young-woo at SK Securities. “Operators need to expand their facility investment quickly to solve the problem.”

    South Korean operators such as KT Corp, SK Telecom and LG Uplus have spent at least $2.6bn this year alone on 5G technology, according to government estimates, as the country pins high hopes on the new technology to drive growth in the information technology sector. 

    The 5G network was expected to provide a new level of high-speed connectivity that will enable more cutting-edge IT services such as artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and virtual and augmented reality.

    Korean telecom operators are scurrying to improve service quality, by building more base stations and developing new content. They have built about 63,000 5G base stations across the country, which is only 7 per cent of the number of 4G stations, according to government data. 

    LG Uplus, which uses Huawei equipment, has been able to increase its domestic market share since the 5G launch, but it may soon face trouble as the US is pressing its allies to avoid 5G solutions from the Chinese company, analysts said. 

    Competition among smartphone makers to grab a bigger share of the 5G market is expected to intensify in the second half of the year as Samsung plans to unveil a new flagship 5G smartphone in August and a foldable phone later.

    Its Chinese rivals are expected to join the race with more affordable 5G phones. Apple is also expected to introduce its first 5G iPhone next year, which will accelerate the US switch.

  3. SK Telecom (SKT) declared itself the 5G king of South Korea after signing up more than half a million subscribers to the service in just under three months.

    Operators in the country launched their next-generation offers simultaneously on 3 April, with total user numbers reckoned to have broken 1 million after two months.

    In its Q2 earnings statement, SKT said it ended the quarter with 503,000 users, giving it the “largest 5G market share” in the country. This contributed to a 1 per cent rise in total mobile subscribers year-on-year to 31 million at end-June (including MVNO and other connections).

    However, SKT’s 5G success appeared to be a double-edged sword, bringing with it higher marketing expenses and costs associated with licensing fees which dragged on operating income at its mobile communications business.

    The operator continued to build its 5G offer following the close of the quarter, penning a roaming deal with Swisscom and launching three AR and VR services using the technology in July. During the remainder of the year, it plans to build “multiple 5G clusters” in major areas of the country, offering “premium network quality and innovative services”, moves it expects will take its total users beyond 2 million by end-December.

    SKT said 5G had a positive sequential impact on mobile revenue during Q2, though the KRW2.44 trillion ($2 billion) generated was down 2.5 per cent year-on-year.

    At group level, net profit fell 71.7 per cent to KRW259.1 billion due to a “lower equity method income on SK Hynix”, while revenue grew 6.8 per cent to KRW4.4 trillion.

  4. LG U+ teams up with Ericsson as it looks to scale up its 5G network in Korea

    South Korean network operator, LG U+ has named Ericsson as its network partner for its 3.5GHz non standalone network.

    LG U+ was among the first operators in the world to launch 5G, when South Korea’s big three mobile network operators launched next generation mobile services earlier this year.

    LG U+ already uses Ericsson for its core network, with the latest agreement naming the Swedish tech giant as the preferred vendor for its Radio Access Network.

    “We are delighted to have Ericsson as a trusted 5G Core and 5G RAN vendor. Ericsson’s end-to-end 5G technology leadership is key to ramping-up our nationwide 5G ambitions in Korea. Ericsson will help us to deliver the very best enhanced mobile broadband experiences for our subscribers, as well as opening up innovation and job creation opportunities through the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0 and digitalized society,” said Daehee Kim, Vice President, Network Strategy, LG U+.

    The latest figures show that South Korea has secured 3.5 million 5G subscribers since it became the first country in the world to launch next generation network technology in April 2019. LG U+ will now focus on expanding the scale and reach of its fledgling 5G network.

  5. Korea JoongAng Daily: Mobile carriers diversifying to find growth

    5G may offer phone companies business and opportunities

    Mobile carriers are investing outside of the telecommunications field into a wide range of sectors, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous driving and media.

    The introduction of the super-fast 5G network is seen as having opened new possibilities.

    SK Telecom vowed to become an information and communications technology (ICT) firm, while KT last week announced it will transform into an AI company. LG U+, the smallest of the three, has been investing heavily in games and content that utilize 5G speeds and low latency.

    Last week, SK Telecom said 45 percent of its sales in the third quarter were derived from businesses outside wireless communication, like media, security and commerce. The mobile carrier is “going beyond a telecommunications company to rapidly transform into a new ICT corporation,” it said in a statement.

    The company’s sales in the third quarter were 4.56 trillion won ($4.08 billion), up 9 percent on year.

    SK Telecom started the Wavve over-the-top media service in September by merging its Oksusu mobile video streaming app and Pooq, a joint video-on-demand platform formed by Korea’s three terrestrial broadcasters.

    Its goal is to secure 5 million paid subscribers by 2023. As of June, Netflix has 1.84 million paid subscribers in Korea, according to application analysis firm WiseApp.

    SK Telecom said it acquired 200 billion won in funding for Wavve to be able to release four to five original programs a year.

    The company is also currently seeking government approval to merge SK Broadband and No. 2 cable TV operator t-broad. SK Telecom last year acquired security service provider ADT Caps to achieve synergy with its SK Infosec subsidiary.

    Its recent agreement to swap stock with Kakao and broadly cooperate in the development of business offerings also highlights the mobile carrier’s ambitions in technologies like AI and the Internet of Things.

    On Oct. 29, the wireless carrier announced each company would buy the equivalent of 300 billion won worth of shares in the other, leaving SK Telecom with a 2.5 percent stake in Kakao and Kakao with a 1.6 percent stake in SK Telecom.

    KT last week vowed to become an AI company.

    It said it will invest 300 billion won in AI and nurture 1,000 AI specialists over the next four years with the goal of expanding the technology to cars, hotels and apartments.

    KT plans to use AI at factories, as well as in security, customer service and the IPTV businesses. It will expand partnerships with construction firms and hotels to enable residents or guests to control devices without physically interacting with them using the GiGA Genie, its AI-powered smart speaker system. It plans to export the service abroad.

    “KT believes AI is a critical call in this era,” said Lee Pil-jae, vice president of KT, at a press event Wednesday. “AI could function as a crucial stepping stone for KT to rise once again and expand globally.”

    KT on Tuesday said it has teamed with locomotive maker Hyundai Rotem to develop unmanned ground vehicles that run on 5G and related technologies. KT said it will expand the cooperation to the defense industry.

    LG U+ argues it has been at the forefront of transforming into an ICT company since it emerged as LG U+ from the merger of LG Telecom, LG Dacom and LG Powercom in 2010.

    Its focus has been on 5G content and games. LG U+ introduced 5G content involving K-pop groups, like offering a virtual dating experience with popular celebrities, and enabling users to dance alongside images of pop stars on their smartphone screens via AI.

    The company formed the GeForce Now Alliance with Nvidia to offer its cloud-based streaming service. Games can be streamed directly from servers, enabling players without powerful graphics processing units to play intensive games.

    Reduced profits from the telecommunications business has driven mobile operators to diversify.

    The government in 2017 raised the discount rate for monthly mobile payment plans from 20 percent to 25 percent. Phone buyers can choose to receive subsidies from mobile operators for purchasing a phone or receive a discount on monthly payments.

    The synergy effect 5G could bring with other industries also made it easier for mobile carriers to enter other industries.

    “Although our key business is telecommunications, there are businesses we could expand to through the 5G network,” said a spokesperson for SK Telecom.

    “AT&T, for instance, started as a telecom company but has become a media giant. The global trend demonstrates telecom companies are expanding their business portfolios to find new growth for the future.”

    WarnerMedia, which owns CNN, is one of the media companies AT&T owns.

    “Until more 5G handsets are released, 5G business opportunities will be centered on B2B [business-to-business], like smart factories and autonomous vehicles instead of from just offering the network to consumers.”

    BY JIN MIN-JI [[email protected]]

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