Four years ago, South Korea led the world’s biggest rollout of 5G, promising a huge increase in network speeds that would help usher in a flurry of new technologies such as autonomous cars, augmented reality and remote surgeries. South Koreans are still waiting for that to happen.
In 2022, South Korea’s average 5G download speed was 896Mbps -roughly six times that of the country’s average 4G download speed and more than double the 5G speeds of the United Arab Emirates and the U.S., according to the Korea Telecommunications Operators Association, a trade group. Despite those achievements, the network has fallen short of what was promised.
South Korea’s three major mobile carriers—SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus—advertised speeds up to 20 times faster than 4G LTE as they rolled out the new service, one of the world’s first commercial 5G networks, in April 2019. But, so far, such speeds can be achieved only on localized networks with limited coverage, and aren’t being pursued for wider use. Many consumers in South Korea were left underwhelmed by the minor improvements in speed and spotty connections. The network’s quality and speed have since improved with technologies such as “standalone 5G” (5G SA) that runs on its own network infrastructure rather than relying in part on those of 4G. Still, subscriber growth for 5G service has been slower than it was for 4G, and many of the visionary services talked about in the country haven’t come around.
South Korea’s nationwide 5G network experience has improved since the new network’s introduction, and driven more data usage. But technical hurdles and cost constraints have limited the ability to offer on a wide scale the type of 5G capable of even faster speeds, according to industry analysts and some of the South Korean carriers themselves.
Some of the difficulties stem from the frequencies at which radio waves travel. Countries around the world have enabled their 5G networks on different frequency bands, with most choosing low- or mid-frequency bands. South Korea’s main telecom firms developed their public 5G networks on the 3.5-gigahertz band, a mid-frequency band.
At the same time, 5G can be enabled on the high-frequency bands supporting millimeter wave, the type touted at 5G’s inception that can provide more-extreme boosts in speed. But a significant downside is that millimeter waves don’t travel well across long distances and through obstacles such as trees, buildings and glass. Thus, networks with the highest speeds are more challenging and expensive to deploy at scale.
South Korean telecom firms chose not to use the 28-gigahertz band, a high-frequency band supporting millimeter waves, in deploying nationwide 5G networks. Under this network environment, the latest smartphones currently sold in the country also do not come with the antenna system supporting this band.
The three telecom firms recently lost their licenses for the 28-gigahertz band after they didn’t meet the mandatory set number of 5G base stations using that band that needed to be built in order to keep the licenses. Now, the government is looking to grant 28-gigahertz licenses to nontelecom entities looking to use the band for 5G services in locations they deem as fit.
In May, South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission collectively fined the country’s three carriers about $24.8 million for allegedly using misleading advertising that exaggerated the speed of their 5G networks at their launch. The promoted speeds were a target that couldn’t be achieved in everyday usage environments, the South Korean FTC said in its decision.
South Korea’s apparent retreats in millimeter-wave 5G development put the country’s 5G leadership at risk, says a recent report from OpenSignal, a mobile-analytics company that monitors and analyzes the global telecom industry.
- LG Uplus says that the 28-gigahertz band’s properties made it costly and technologically difficult to deploy at a mass scale, and that the company would continue to work on improving the quality of its 5G services.
- SK Telecom says it will continue improving its 5G services, though it notes that South Korea boasts the world’s top 5G services in terms of speed and coverage and that consumers are using more data at lower costs.
- KT declined to comment.
This doesn’t mean the millimeter-wave band has lost its commercial appeal. Today, it is being used around the world—albeit in only a handful of cases—to enable ultrafast 5G in a fixed area, such as a sports arena, airport or smart factory, industry analysts say. Major telecom operators in the U.S. and Japan are using high-frequency mmWave bands for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) or as one of the ways of enabling their 5G networks in dense urban locations, though coverage made available through these bands is limited to small areas and line of sight communications.
In South Korea, meanwhile, the 28-gigahertz band is being used to support some private 5G networks serving specific needs. One network, for example, supports autonomous robots at a local tech company and another assists augmented-reality technologies in surgery. Special licenses were issued in both cases. The 28-gigahertz band also is being used inside parts of Seoul’s subways, a government-led project that involved the three telecom companies. But whether that network will continue to operate, given the revocation of the three carriers’ 28-gigahertz licenses, remains to be seen.
At its beginnings, 5G was touted as a technology that would usher in a new era of smart cities, autonomous driving and holograms. But even in South Korea, where 5G adoption is higher than elsewhere, those new services are being pursued but haven’t taken off widely. Low market demand, the limited availability of devices that would support 5G as well as regulatory barriers all made it difficult for related services to go mainstream, said SK Telecom, the largest of South Korea’s three telecom firms, in a rare 6G white paper that outlined some key takeaways from 5G.
That is partly a chicken-and-egg problem, says Julian Gorman, head of Asia-Pacific for GSMA, a trade association for mobile carriers. Developers are often reluctant to invest in new products for a developing technology like 5G, especially the type using millimeter waves on the high-frequency bands. In turn, telecom providers see a weaker business rationale for investing aggressively in widespread millimeter-wave 5G coverage, he says.
The usage scenarios presented at 5G’s inception were more of a demonstration of the technology rather than solid proof that there was a business need to do so, Gorman says, adding that the 5G ecosystem is still trying to determine what types of new services and technologies are wanted in the market.
The lack of 5G killer apps also feeds into a bigger trend: 5G has been a harder sell than 4G. That’s mainly because URLLC does not meet the advertised ITU-R M.2410 performance requirements. So there are no mission critical, ultra low latency/real time applications that can use 5G.
In South Korea, the number of 5G subscribers surpassed 30 million in April this year, roughly four years after 5G’s initial introduction. But with 4G, that same milestone was reached after about 2½ years, according to data from the Ministry of Science and ICT (information and communication technology).
That is a trend echoed globally as well. As of 2022, about 32% of smartphones in circulation worldwide were 5G-capable, but just 45% of those phones were activated on a 5G network, down from 55% a year earlier, according to Omdia. This partly shows that more people are upgrading to 5G phones without necessarily choosing a 5G plan, in addition to 5G not being available yet in some places, it said.
“People are simply not ready to pay more for 5G, because they’re totally content with 4G,” which many consider sufficient for doing things like streaming video, says De Renesse of Omdia. “Many still ask, why would I pay more for doing the same thing?” he says.
South Korea government fines mobile carriers $25M for exaggerating 5G speeds; KT says 5G vision not met
South Korea’s antitrust regulator said it had imposed a total of 33.6 billion won ($25.06 million) in fines on three domestic mobile carriers for exaggerating their 5G network speeds. The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said the three South Korean firms – SK Telecom Co Ltd, KT Corp, and LG Uplus Corp – had also unfairly advertised that they were the fastest relative to their competitors.
“The three telecom companies advertised that consumers could use target 5G network speeds, which cannot be achieved in real-life environment … companies advertised that their 5G network speed was faster than competitors without evidence,” the KFTC said in a statement.
In support of ongoing civil lawsuits filed by consumers, the advertisements released by the three mobile carriers have been presented by the regulator to a local court.
SK Telecom and KT Corp declined to comment. A spokesperson at LG Uplus said the company is reviewing the sanctions.
The KFTC imposed a fine of 16.8 billion won on SK Telecom, 13.9 billion won on KT and 2.8 billion won on LG Uplus.
There were 30.76 million 5G network users in South Korea in June, accounting for about 38% of the total 80.23 million mobile subscriptions in the country, according to data from the Ministry of Science and ICT.
In a paper issued last week, SK Telecom states correctly the industry is far from achieving its 5G goals even four years after commercialization. There were “misunderstandings” about network performance and problems such as device form factors and lack of market demand, it said. “A variety of visionary services were expected, but there was no killer service,” the paper stated. “We should have taken a more objective perspective,” it added. In particular:
A variety of visionary services were expected, but there was no killer service Even at the time when preparing for 5G, services such as autonomous driving, UAM, XR, hologram, and digital twin had appeared and expected, but most of them did not live up to expectations. We should have taken a more objective perspective. For example, whether 5G technology alone could change the future, or whether the overall environment constituting the service was prepared together. If so, the gap between the public’s expectations for 5G and the reality would not have been large. 3D video, UHD streaming, AR/VR, autonomous driving, remote surgery, etc. are representative services that are not still successful presented by the 5G Vision Recommendation. Most of them are the result of a combination of factors such as form factor constraints, immaturity of device and service technology, low or absent
market demand, and policy/regulation issues, rather than a single factor of the lack of 5G performance.
The authors concluded that instead of expecting that the new technology alone could create successful services, it would have been more effective to have collaborated with partners to build a broader 5G ecosystem.
Gap between 5G Vision Recommendations and customer expectations:
Although the usage scenarios and capability goals presented in the 5G Vision Recommendation are future goals to be achieved in the long term, misunderstandings have been created that can lead to excessive expectations of 5G performance and innovative services based on it from the beginning of commercialization. To prevent this misunderstanding from recurring in 6G, it is necessary to consider various usage scenarios of 6G, set achievable goals, and communicate accurately with the public. In particular, there were issues raised about the maximum transmission speed of 20Gbps, which was considered an icon of 5G key performance indicators. As 3G evolved into LTE, the radio access technology also evolved from WCDMA to OFDMA, and with the introduction of CA and multi-antenna technology, it became possible to use a much wider bandwidth than 3G. This can be seen as a ‘revolutionary’ improvement. On the other hand, 5G is considered as an ‘evolutionary’ improvement that supplements the performance of LTE based on the same radio access technology, CA, and multi-antenna system technology. Due to this, it was difficult to implement the increase in transmission speed shown in LTE in 5G at once. Moreover, the difference in technology perception was further revealed in the initial stage of 5G commercialization. Early commercialization was promoted for 5G, however, 5G required more base station compared to LTE to build a nationwide network due to frequency characteristics, requiring more efforts in terms of cost and time.
SK Telecom has made significant efforts to expedite 5G nationwide rollout, but customers wanted the same level of coverage as LTE in a brief period.
South Korea is arguably one of the leading countries that has deployed 5G. According to the Ministry of Science and ICT, the country had 29.6 million users as of this March, and given that number of subscribers has increased to around 500,000 per month up to now, it is more than likely that as of early May, there are 30 million 5G users. This milestone comes four years after 5G became available in smartphones in the country in April 2019 (based on 3GPP Release 15 specs).
South Korea started 2G code division multiple access (CDMA) services in 1996 and 3G wide CDMA in 2003, starting the cell phone era. This allowed South Korean telecommunication companies to expand abroad. The launch of WCDMA also allowed Qualcomm and Samsung to become leaders in application processors and smartphones, respectively, today. Then in 2011 came 4G long-term evolution (LTE) services. This truly enabled smartphones which could now stream videos in real time. South Korean wireless network operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus became board members of GSMA, the global telecommunications suppliers organization.
Expectations were high for 5G. The government and telcos claimed in marketing before launch that 5G will be, compared to 4G, 20 times faster, 100 times better simultaneous access and 10 times shorter delays. They claimed new augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D content and IoT services would be introduced. However, the reality after 5G launched was quite different and none of the promises were kept.
According to the Ministry of Science and ICT, 5G download speed on average was 896.10Mbps as of October. Upload speed was on average 93.16Mbps. This was only faster by 5.9 times and 2.8 times faster, respectively than 4G LTE in the same month.
Image Credit: TheElec (http://thelec.net)
5G coverage was also only around 33.1% of the country, which means on a national level, most people were using non-standalone 5G services (5G NR with LTE infrastructure and EPC).
Spending to obtain 28 GHz mmWave spectrum has effectively ended. KT and LG Uplus had their spectrum cancelled in December; SK Telecom is also expected to lose theirs within the year (SEE UPDATE BELOW)! Without spending on 28GHz, there will be no “20 times faster 5G.” The country’s Fair Trade Commission is expected to penalize the three South Korean telcos for violating advertisement laws.
On the positive side, 5G is being combined with AI. KT announced the commercial launch of a new solution, which it calls its “5G Infrastructure Intelligent Control Solution”, that is based on artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The South Korean network operator noted that this solution is designed to control 5G infrastructure with the aim of making that infrastructure more efficient and stable.
KT’s new solution is equipped with AI technology to detect abnormalities in the status of networks and equipment in real-time. By comparing dozens of equipment quality data in real-time with pre-learned data, the new solution can determine whether the equipment is abnormal or not with a single indicator, KT said. Also, the solution also displays the status of access and core equipment in five stages, making it easy to “intuitively check the equipment and the degree of abnormality” that occurred, the Korean telco added.
The company highlighted that companies and institutions without expertise in network management can use KT’s 5G solution to operate 5G networks without any “burden.” KT said it has already implemented the solution in four institutions, including Bundang Seoul National University Hospital, Samsung Seoul Hospital, Korea Aerospace Industries Co., Ltd. and Navy Headquarters.
“When KT’s 5G specialized network testbed is established, it will be possible to perform a one-stop service for testing equipment for 5G specialized network, interworking with terminals, and conducting network trial operation and inspection. It is expected to greatly reduce the cost and technical burden of companies considering the introduction of a 5G specialized network,” KT said.
“SK Telecom (SKT) is stepping up efforts on all fronts to transform itself into an AI company,” CFO Kim Jin Won told a results briefing Wednesday. Its strategy is to grow through partnerships with local and global top-tier AI companies while also continuing to develop its own AI technology.
SKT has been trialing generative AI in its A. (pronounced “A-dot”) service, built on its own technology and capable of holding complex conversations and developing long-term memories. Last month the telco invested 15 billion Korean won (US$11.4 million) in local startup Scatter Lab, which has used deep learning to create a chatbot that can hold empathetic conversations. SKT wants to work with Scatter Lab to develop an AI agent that can have human-like conversations with A. customers. The two companies also aim to develop a hyperscale language model equipped with emotions and knowledge domains.
May 15 2023 Update:
On Friday, May 12th South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT cancelled SKT’s 28 GHz 5G license. The Korean network operator’s major rivals KT Corp and LG U+ had their 28 GHz licences cancelled last year for the same reason, but SKT held on to its concession by the skin of its teeth and escaped with a warning.
“It is regrettable that this result has finally come about despite the government’s active efforts so far,” said Choi Woo-hyuk, director of radio wave policy at the Ministry of Science and ICT, in a Korean language statement confirming the licence withdrawal.
The three South Korean mobile operators each acquired 800 MHz of 28 GHz spectrum, alongside 3.5 GHz frequencies, in 2018, with the band being available for use by the end of that year. The licence conditions required them to deploy 15,000 base stations using 28 GHz within three years. But an investigation on the part of the last year Ministry showed that the telcos had built only 10% of the number of sites they had committed to, which led to it pulling the licences of the worst offenders: KT and LG U+.
SK Telecom (SKT) today announced that for the first time in the world, it developed a technology that allows for integrated control and operation of quantum cryptography networks by integrating networks composed of equipment from different manufacturers via software-defined networking (SDN) and distributing quantum keys in an automated manner.
So far it was impossible to connect and operate quantum cryptography communication networks of different companies and countries. However, with SKT‘s new technology, quantum cryptography communication networks of diverse manufacturers, mobile operators and nations can be interconnected and co-operated.
The company said that it completed verification of the technology on the Korea Advanced Research Network (KOREN), a non-profit testbed network infrastructure operated by the National Information Society Agency (NIA) to facilitate research, test and verification of future network leading technologies and related equipment.
Based on the results of development and verification of the technology, SKT has been actively promoting standardization by sharing the case with global telcos.
To set international standards for the integration of quantum cryptography communication networks, SKT proposed two standardization tasks – i.e. ‘Control Interface of Software Defined Networks’ and ‘Orchestration Interface of Software Defined Networks for Interoperable Key Management System’ – to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and they were chosen as work items by the ETSI industry specification group for QKD (ISG-QKD) in March 2023.
If approved as international standards, they will provide a technical basis for creating a large-scale network by interconnecting quantum cryptography communication networks built by many different operators. SKT plans to continue developing additional technologies for interworking of services between different operators/countries, as well as management of service quality.
Through these efforts, the company expects to strengthen the competitiveness of domestic companies and boost the quantum cryptography ecosystem both home and abroad.
Meanwhile, at this year’s IOWN Global Forum Workshop, SKT presented ‘Quantum Secure Interconnection for Critical Infrastructure,’ covering use cases for next-generation transmission encryption technology and proposal for a proof-of-concept (PoC) of quantum cryptography in All-Photonics Network (APN). The company also showcased its quantum cryptography communication technologies at 2023 MWC Barcelona.
“The two standardization tasks approved as work items by ETSI will boost the expansion of quantum cryptography communication in the global market,” said Ha Min-yong, Chief Development Officer of SKT. “We will work with diverse global players in many different areas to create new business opportunities in the global market.”
SK Telecom Co. Ltd. published this content on 05 April 2023 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. https://www.sktelecom.com/en/press/press_detail.do?idx=1563¤tPage=1&type=&keyword=
Quantum cryptography communication transmits each bit of information as a single photon of light, which encrypts that information against eavesdropping or decryption. Telecom operators and vendors have been working for several years on integrating that level of encryption into networks.
For instance, Toshiba and the Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization at Tohoku University used quantum technology in 2018 to hit one-month-average key distribution speeds exceeding 10 Mb/s over installed optical fiber lines. They also used the technology to monitor the performance of installed optical fiber lines in different environments.
Toshiba later partnered with U.K.-based operator BT on using QKD across to secure a network transmission.
SK Telecom also has a long quantum history, including work with Swiss-based strategic partner ID Quantique, which focuses on quantum cryptography communication technology.
Industry trade group GSMA last year announced its Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskforce focused on supporting the industry’s creation of a roadmap to secure networks, devices and systems across the entire supply chain.” That work was initiated with IBM and Vodafone, and has since gained more than 45 members.
Lory Thorpe, GSMA Post-Quantum Telco Networks chairperson and head of IBM Consulting’s Telco Transformation Offerings, told SDxCentral last month that the core objective of the taskforce is to ensure the implementation of the right requirements and standards in a timely manner to avoid being “late to the party.” Thorpe explained the initial problem statement was “around how do we support the telco ecosystem to navigate the path to quantum safe.”
“When you look at where cryptography is used in telco systems, it impacts basically all of the different systems. But it also then impacts all of the standards that underpin these systems as well,” she said. “We’re advocating that people start planning, not panicking, but at least planning because … this isn’t something that just happens overnight.”
SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest wireless carrier, announced on Tuesday that it’s developed a new cell tower safety inspection system using drones and image analysis artificial intelligence (AI). The newly-developed image analysis AI model checks the status of nuts and bolts by analyzing images taken by drones.
Cell towers with antennas for sending and receiving telecommunications signals are installed across the country, with their maximum height estimated at 75 meters. Since cell towers require regular maintenance to prevent accidents that can be caused by deterioration such as corrosion or loosening of nuts and bolts, specialized personnel had to climb them to inspect their condition with their bare eyes.
Engineers from a subsidiary of SK Telecom Co. inspect a cell tower in this photo provided by the wireless carrier on Jan. 31, 2023.
Now with an intelligent safety inspection system in place, not only can SK Telecom prevent accidents due to aging cell towers, but it can also ensure the safety of workers by minimizing the need to go up the cell towers. Moreover, the company can drive up work productivity through the application of an AI model that automatically identifies defects by analyzing images taken by drones.
Previously, safety inspectors had to study around 100 images to complete the inspection of one cell tower by inspecting multiple images taken by drones. With the adoption of the new AI analysis model, SK Telecom has been able to reduce the time required for the process by 95%, while increasing the reliability and consistency of the analysis results.
The company says, going forward, it will enhance the system even further by adding inspection items such as wind pressure safety/inclination. It will also look to improve the AI model and link the application with the safety management system.
In addition to drone-based cell tower inspections, the telecom company is actively applying AI to other areas of its network, including equipment error/anomaly detection, power cost reduction, and work completion inspection.
Park Myung-soon, SKT’s vice president and head of Infra DT Office, said: “By building an intelligent safety inspection system that can complement the existing visual inspection, we have secured greater safety for workers. We will continue to make efforts to achieve AI transformation of our telecommunication networks, while focusing on developing our field workers into experts who can develop and operate AI.”
SK Telecom (“SKT”) today announced that its metaverse platform ‘ifland’ simultaneously launched in 49 countries and regions throughout the world. With the global launch of ifland, SKT will actively utilize K-pop content, develop attractive content with overseas partners, and strengthen communication features to shape ifland into a global leading social metaverse platform.
The global version of ifland supports English, Chinese (Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese) and Japanese, and is available for both Android and iOS smartphone users. The existing ifland app will be upgraded to the new global version. For instance, the app will automatically activate in the Korean mode when accessed from Korea, and the global mode when accessed from overseas countries.
This global expansion of ifland comes after SKT launched its existing Korean language service in July 2021. Since then, it has experienced 8.7 million downloads in its first year of operation. As of October 2022, Ifland had 12.8 million users.
Under the slogan, “The New Way of Socializing,” ifland will deliver a differentiated communication experience within the metaverse.
SKT will effectively expand ifland’s global reach through partnerships with major telecommunications companies in each continent. The company is working with e& (formerly known as Etisalat Group) in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and Singtel in South East Asia.
On November 18, 2022, SKT signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with NTT Docomo, the largest mobile operator in Japan, to cooperate in areas of content, technology and service to further advance their metaverse services. Through the MOU, the two companies will forge strategic partnership in three key areas –metaverse, mobile network infrastructure and media business. They will also create greater synergies by cooperating with other SK ICT affiliates like SK Hynix and Contents Wavve (a joint venture between Korean terrestrial broadcasters KBS, MBC, and SBS and SKT).
First, SKT and NTT DOCOMO will work together in the areas of content, technology and service to further advance their metaverse services. SKT has been operating its metaverse service ‘ifland’ since July 2021, while NTT DOCOMO launched its metaverse service in March 2022.
Partnership discussions with other telecommunications companies are also underway. Together with its overseas partners, SKT plans to develop specialized features tailored to each different region. They will also promote various metaverse-related events and business cooperation, including joint production of popular local content.
Moreover, SKT plans to offer content targeting the “MZ generation (Millennials and Generation Z)” through partnerships with diverse players including overseas universities and international brands.
Early this month, SKT signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Thailand’s Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University (BSRU) and Korea’s Dong-ah Institute of Media and Arts (DIMA) – which is providing a variety of programs including ‘Teen Teen Audition’ in ifland since the beginning of this year – to create a global metaverse campus. SKT will actively support BSRU and DIMA to overcome the limitations stemming from the physical distance between the two schools through ifland.
In addition, the company is working with Birger Christensen, a Copenhagen-based fashion company with over 150 years of history, to launch digital skins for avatars in ifland within this year to enable the MZ generation to better express themselves.
SKT has also updated key features of ifland. The company opened a global lounge within ifland to help those new to the metaverse to experience the new world with greater ease, and introduced avatars of many different colors.
In addition, to facilitate communication between hosts and participants of gatherings in ifland, SKT applied features like ‘one-on-one direct messaging’ and ‘3D speech bubble.’ ‘Live voting’ feature was also introduced to check the opinions of participants in real time, and ‘ifme motion sharing’ feature was adopted to apply the user’s facial expressions to his/her avatar.
To celebrate the global launch of ifland, SKT will be showcasing a wide variety of live K-pop content every week. Original metaverse K-pop content titled “The Fan Live Talkon” will target K-pop fans overseas, with over 50% of content provided in English. Every week, ifland will offer live content related to K-pop – e.g. auditions for K-pop trainees and nurturing of K-pop idols – for global fans to enjoy.
Within this year, through ifland’s SNS account, SKT plans to hold events to give out diverse artists’ goods and gifts to overseas users who participate in the meet-ups of K-pop content.
Meanwhile, ifland has surpassed 12.8 million of cumulative users as of October 2022, which represents a four-fold increase compared to 3 million early this year thanks to differentiated content offerings like original metaverse content.
“Since its launch in Korea in July 2021, ifland has grown rapidly to become the best social metaverse in Korea by attracting users of diverse age groups as well as many different organizations,” said Yang Maeng-seok, Head of Metaverse Office at SKT. “Now, we will go beyond Korea to expand our reach in the global market to take customers metaverse experience to the next level.”
List of countries in which ifland launched:
Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Deutschland, Finland, France, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Rwanda, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, Tunisia, Turkey, Vietnam
“The partnership between SKT and Deutsche Telekom is very meaningful at a time when the world is heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Park Jung-ho, CEO of SK Telecom. “The deepened bond between the two companies will play an important role as a bridge between Asia and Europe and lead us to new technologies that can bring greater value to humanity.”
Tim Höttges, CEO Deutsche Telekom, Park Jung-ho, CEO SK Telecom and their teams at a joint video conference.
SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom have been working closely since 2016 to lead innovations in ICT, seeing the sharing of fixed and wireless technologies. In May 2020, the two firms announced a collaboration to expand the global 5G ecosystem by accelerating 5G deployment in Europe. As part of this, they constructed a Network Engineer Exchange Programme that will see them exchange their respective technological expertise once the situation with Covid-19 improves.
About SK Telecom
SK Telecom is Korea’s leading ICT company, driving innovations in the areas of mobile communications, media, security, commerce and mobility. Armed with cutting-edge ICT including AI and 5G, the company is ushering in a new level of convergence to deliver unprecedented value to customers. As the global 5G pioneer, SK Telecom is committed to realizing the full potential of 5G through ground-breaking services that can improve people’s lives, transform businesses, and lead to a better society.
SK Telecom says they have attained unrivaled leadership in the Korean mobile market with over 30 million subscribers, which account for nearly 50 percent of the market. The company now has 47 ICT subsidiaries and annual revenues approaching KRW 17.8 trillion.
GSMA announced a new initiative to develop a common telco edge cloud platform for network operators. China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, EE, KDDI, Orange, Singtel, SK Telecom, Telefonica and TIM are participating in the project. It will make local network operator assets made available to developers and software vendors to bring their services closer to enterprise customers.
The inter-operable platform will be developed in 2020. The operators have agreed to work together to develop the edge compute architectural framework and reference platform, and the GSMA has launched an Operator Platform Project to support the initiative. Initially, the platform will be deployed across multiple markets in Europe, before expanding to other parts of the world.
Operators will offer through the platform edge compute, storage and connectivity to their customers. The GSMA said the open platform will ensure data protection and sovereignty mechanisms, while offering carrier-grade reliability, security and trustworthiness. It will leverage existing technology where possible, such as aggregation platforms like MobiledgeX, or the interconnection mechanisms developed as part of the GSMA MultiOperator MEC experience.
Telco Edge Cloud will:
- Be open and inclusive
- Provide data protection and sovereignty mechanisms
- Offer carrier-grade reliability, security, trustworthiness
- Leverage existing technology solutions; as appropriate, including, but not limited to, aggregation platform solutions such as MobiledgeX, or the interconnection mechanisms developed as part of the GSMA MultiOperator MEC experience.
“Operators are very well placed to provide capabilities such as low latency through their network assets,” said Alex Sinclair, CTO at GSMA. “It is essential for enterprises to be able to reach all of their customers from the edge of any network. Based on the GSMA Operator Platform Specification, Telco Edge Cloud will provide enterprise developers and aggregators with a consistent way to reach connected customers.”
“Edge cloud will build a unified network edge ecosystem, providing diversified and customised products and services, and multiple platform capabilities. It will also realise more extensive boundary-crossing cooperation to meet the requirements of digital transformation of various vertical industries,” said Xiongyan Tang, the Chief Scientist of China Unicom Network Technology Research Institute and the Chief Architect of China Unicom Intelligent Network Center, China Unicom.
“Edge Cloud has an exciting potential to enable and enhance many innovative experiences for our customers. I welcome this operator initiative to take ownership of the edge opportunity by joining forces to deliver our capabilities in a federated edge service,” said Claudia Nemat, Board Member Technology & Innovation at Deutsche Telekom. “Leveraging MobiledgeX as platform partner and aggregator in the federation puts operators on the best track to create scale, bring in the developer community and make a market impact.”
“Edge Cloud is a promising opportunity to enable the development of services that need low latency connection and to meet various service demands from enterprise customers. The innovation of telecommunication services will be accelerated by the enhancement of service quality and the customer experience in real-time applications such as cloud XR and cloud gaming,” said Yoshiaki Uchida, Member of the Board, Executive Vice President, Executive Director, Technology Sector at KDDI.
“To address the edge-cloud computing market, operators need to work very closely together to create an interoperable platform and to monetise their extremely valuable assets,” said Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Chief Technology and Global Innovation Officer, Orange. “We, at Orange, believe that it is a must-have to unleash new business opportunities enabled by both edge computing and 5G. That’s why we are proud to support the GSMA Telco Edge Cloud initiative.”
“We believe that a cross-border edge cloud platform which serves bandwidth needs and lower latency requirements, is what’s needed at this time as it allows organisations with multi-market operations to deploy and manage time-critical applications closer to where the data is collected. We look forward to collaborating with GSMA and the other telcos on this exciting initiative,” said Mark Chong, Group CTO of Singtel.
“Edge Cloud is a key enabler to unlock the full potential of emerging applications such as AR/VR, cloud robots, and smart factory with improved QoS, real-time intelligence, security and data privacy. In order to provide a seamless global MEC experience to our customers, it is critical that mobile operators around the world come together and join forces,” says Dr. Kang-Won Lee, Vice President and Head of Cloud Labs at SK Telecom. “SK Telecom is excited to collaborate with global partners, bringing our edge cloud experience and tech leadership to the team to realise the vision of mobile edge cloud.”
“The market needs an Edge Cloud that meets the enterprise demands to service their customers. Telecom operators are in an extremely good position to provide a trusted and open Edge Cloud, so enterprises can maximise their service offering and business opportunities being as close as needed to their customers,” said Enrique Blanco, Group CTO, Telefonica.
“Edge Cloud is a fundamental asset for the new requirements of many business segments and customers,” said Elisabetta Romano, Chief Innovation & Partnership Officer, TIM. “Edge Cloud will be a formidable enabler to transform the network from a “bit pipe” to an effective digital business platform, thanks to flexible computing capacity and low access latency to computing resources.”
Geoff Hollingworth, CMO of MobiledgeX, told RCR Wireless News that he has been very close to the company’s collaboration with the GSMA/operator initiative. He said that the goal of the program is to build an operator edge platform that presents a solution “as homogenous as possible” to the enterprise market, in the same way that the mobile industry has presented global messaging and data solutions.
“They want to fast-track that in the industry, as much as possible into the real world,” he said. Enterprises, Hollingworth went on, need easy access to high-performance, cloud-native computing close to where they need that data processed, whether it’s in a country where their products are manufactured or perhaps where they are used, or both. He said there is more than one model for providing that, such as a form of aggregated networks where local operators are paid for being part of it and running workloads locally, or via something similar to roaming agreements between operators for so-called “east-west interfaces” that allow access to local edge computing resources. He expects both to be explored in the GSMA initiative.
“It’s purely a question of agreeing to roll out in a way that actually meets the needs of the real customers,” he added. MobiledgeX, Hollingworth said, has been in conversations with operators around the world as it seeks to build its own edge computing platform footprint, and he said it has a good handle on just what enterprise customers and application developers need and brings that knowledge to the table as part of its participation in the GSMA Operator Platform Project.
Edge use cases, he went on, always begin with one thing in common: a large volume of data that is very information-rich, that needs to be interpreted in real-time, probably by artificial intelligence; and then resulting insights need to be transmitted both locally to make an immediate change, and to a larger big-data engine for longer-term processing. MobiledgeX sees that such data streams are often coming from video cameras being used as IoT sensors and requiring vast, fast image processing capabilities. Even in the case of lower-data-intensive IoT sensor capabilities, Hollingworth said, those capabilities are increasingly being built into products and solutions that enterprises are buying—but they’re not being turned up, even if the companies would like to use them, because the enterprises can’t cope with the volume of information that would result. Globally available, easily accessed edge computing resources could change that.
The GSMA Operator Platform Project:
The GSMA’s Operator Platform Project intends to develop a framework for operators to expose and monetise their network capabilities. Operators will offer through the Operator Platform edge compute, storage and connectivity to their customers leveraging:
- their existing relationships with enterprises who already have use cases requiring edge,
- their vast local footprint/real estate,
- an inimitable position for stringent security and data privacy, residency, sovereignty and
- the organisational competence from the experience of providing highly reliable (five nines) services over a distributed and capillary network environment.
Cloud capabilities will be treated as a subset of edge.
About the GSMA:
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 750 operators with almost 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Mobile World Congress Americas and the Mobile 360 Series of conferences.
For the GSMA
GSMA Press Office
SKT Forms Global Alliance with 9 Telcos on 5G Mobile Edge Computing
SK Telecom Co., South Korea’s largest mobile carrier, said Sunday it has formed an international alliance with nine telecommunication firms to develop 5G mobile edge computing (MEC) technologies and services.
SK Telecom said Telecom Edge Cloud TF was established with nine other companies at a GSMA meeting in London last week. Its members include Deutsche Telekom AG of Germany, KDDI Corp. of Japan and EE Ltd. of Britain. The TF aims to have global commercialization of 5G MEC by sharing each member’s technology and service know-how.
MEC is a key technology in delivering ultra-low latency data communication in 5G networks that allows companies to offer better solutions in cloud gaming, smart factory and autonomous driving. It aims to minimize latency by providing a “shortcut” — which can be completed by installing small-scale data centers at 5G base stations — for data transmission.
SK Telecom has been one of the active players in the mobile industry to develop 5G MEC solutions. In January, the company formed Global MEC TF with five Asian telecommunication firms to develop 5G MEC technologies and services.
SK Telecom today announced that it has successfully accomplished the world’s first standalone (SA) 5G data session on its multi-vendor commercial 5G network in South Korea.
1. T-Mobile claimed they were the first carrier to successfully test 5G SA operation which we covered in this article: T-Mobile Claim: 1st Standalone 5G Data Session on a Multi-Vendor Radio and Core Network.
2. Definition: 5G Stand Alone (SA) refers to using 5G specifications (in cells/base stations and endpoints) for both signalling and information transfer. All 5G deployments to date use NSA operation which uses 4G-LTE signaling and 4G-Evolved Packet Core (EPC) as well as LTE network management
SA operation requires the new 5G Packet Core (5GC) architecture from 3GPP instead of relying on the EPC to allow the deployment of 5G without the LTE network.
Ericsson provides 5G Standalone 5G facts:
- New cloud-native 5G Core
- Simplified RAN and device architecture
- The only option to provide same 5G coverage for low band as legacy system
- Supports advanced network-slicing functions (not standardized yet – may be in 3GPP Release 16)
- Facilitates a wider range of use cases for new devices
- Brings ultra-low latency (that won’t happen to completion of 3GPP Release 16 in June 2020 if then)
3. South Korea was the first country in the world to launch 5G services and currently has some of the most wide ranging 5G networks anywhere in the world. That’s largely due to government co-ordination with the three large South Korean wireless network operators – SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus.
With this major breakthrough in 5G, SK Telecom says it is now fully set to provide standalone 5G services. SK Telecom said that it plans to launch the world’s first 5G SA service in the first half of this year.
The standalone 5G data call took place on January 16, 2020 in Busan, the second largest city in Korea, using SK Telecom’s commercial 5G network deployed in that region.
To achieve this standalone 5G milestone, the company applied standalone 5G New Radio (NR) software to its existing non-standalone (NSA) 5G base stations, and completed multi-vendor interoperability between network equipment of Ericsson and Samsung.
SK Telecom has also applied key 5G technologies such as network slicing and mobile edge computing (MEC) to its standalone 5G network. Network slicing is being highlighted as an essential technology for providing optimal support for different types of 5G services by partitioning a single physical network into multiple virtual mobile networks. MEC minimizes latency by providing a shortcut for data transmission through installation of small-scale data center at 5G base station or router. MEC can improve the performance of ultra-low latency 5G services such as cloud gaming, smart factory and autonomous driving.
“With the successful standalone 5G data call on our multi-vendor commercial 5G network, we are now standing on the threshold of launching standalone 5G service, a key enabler of revolutionary changes and innovations in all industries,” said Park Jong-kwan, Vice President and Head of 5GX Labs of SK Telecom. “SK Telecom will offer the best 5G networks and services to realize a whole new level of customer experience in the 5G era.”
About SK Telecom
SK Telecom (NYSE: SKM) 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.
Related—Big 3 Korean carriers vow to offer seamless telecom service during lunar new year:
Korea’s big three mobile network operators have committed to provide “seamless” connectivity over the Korean Lunar New Year festivities, according to reports in the Korean press.
SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus all committed to provide extra capacity in their networks over the Seollal period, as Koreans travel home for the holiday, placing extra strain on the country’s networks, particularly in public spaces such as train stations and along the country’s roads.
“To respond to possible data traffic jams, LG Uplus checked out base stations for 4G and 5G networks and will run an emergency situation room. We will also increase the number of technicians for highly-populated areas such as airports,” the company told journalists from the Korea Times.
SK Telecom predicted that it would see a 24 per cent hike in data traffic over the holiday period, as vacationing Koreans make use of high demand services like UHD video streaming and geolocation services. SK Telecom identified 750 busy areas that will receive special attention over the period, while KT said that it would be proactively managing traffic in 970 locations across the country.
All three mobile network operators have said that they will have more technicians and service staff working over the holiday to help them cope with the increase in demand.
Technicians of SK Telecom check network quality at an airport, Sunday. Photo Courtesy of SK Telecom
LG Uplus will also run an emergency response center at its office in Magok, western Seoul during the holiday.
The company has completed inspections of 4G and 5G base stations installed at highway rest areas, SRT and KTX train stations and bus terminals throughout the country.
“To respond to possible data traffic jams, LG Uplus checked out base stations for 4G and 5G networks and will run an emergency situation room. We will also increase the number of technicians for highly-populated areas such as airports,” the company said.
KT designated 970 places including highways, department stores, bus terminals, airports, train stations and other busy areas in the country as data quality management zones.
South Korea was the first country in the world to launch 5G commercial services with the big three wireless carriers doing so on the same day.