SK Telecom talks 6G with Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung

South Korean operator SK Telecom is hoping to take the lead in the development of 5G towards 6G in partnership with most of the big kit vendors.

Specifically SKT has signed those memorandum of understanding things with each of Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung Electronics. The mutual understanding reached between SKT and the vendors is that they promise to cooperate with each other when it comes to research and development of 5G and 6G technologies.

The 5G stuff is as expected: ultra-reliable and low-latency communications, enhanced MIMO, millimetre wave and standalone 5G. Despite banging on about 6G in the press release, SKT didn’t feel confident enough to specifiy the nature of the 6G R&D, just committing to draft technical requirements and new business models for the next generation of mobile tech.

“Through strengthened cooperation with Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung Electronics, SK Telecom will be able to secure the world’s best 5G quality and lead the way towards 6G mobile network communications,” said Park Jin-hyo, Chief Technology Officer and Head of ICT R&D Center of SK Telecom.

Conspicuously absent from this happy band are Huawei and ZTE. South Korea, of course, has long had a complicated relationship with China, but with the current trade tensions between the US and China currently focusing on Huawei as a proxy, many US allies are moving to distance themselves from it and ZTE just to make sure they stay out of trouble. With Huawei making it clear it’s investing heavily in technological autonomy, there is a real possibility of 6G R&D becoming balkanised.

SK Telecom is bolstering 5G launch with rich content

South Korea’s largest mobile operator will switch on 5G service for consumers on Friday and has plenty of goodies for consumers to fill the bandwidth with.

After publishing its 5G service packages for consumers, SK Telecom (SKT) announced that it is beefing up content, from streamed games to HD and VR videos, that the 5G users can choose from. In a press release the company claimed it has secured around 8,000 different content titles.

A special section for 5G called “SKT 5GX” is set up in SKT’s OTT video service that would include VR video (concert, city and museum tours), 5G MAX (IMAX-like experience), and UHD content (dramas, entertainment shows and music videos in 4K and above). There on offer will also be VR and AR games as well as exclusive streaming games. Additionally, a social VR will enable “multiple users to watch baseball games together in a virtual reality environment.”

“The AR, VR and cloud games unveiled today only mark the beginning of the age of Hyper-Innovation brought by 5G,” said Park Jung-ho, the Chief Executive Officer of SK Telecom. “SK Telecom will continue to introduce 5G-based innovative services to lead all areas of New ICT.”

In order to promote the early adoption of 5G, SKT will zero-rate data for consuming the content from ‘SKT 5GX’ section of the OTT mobile video service, as well as provide up to 5GB of free data for users of its mobile games and VR games. The promotion will run till the end of June.

SKT said that it has rolled out 34,000 5G base stations covering 85 metropolises across the country as well as some hotspots like shopping centres, metro lines in the greater Seoul region, etc., and is planning to expand the coverage to all the metro lines in the country, as well as the national parks and festival sites. The company has excluded Huawei from its 5G business and has been working with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung.

South Korean consumers will get 5G service starting from $48 a month

5G for consumers is expected to launch late this week in South Korea. The three mobile operators in the market have published their 5G packages, starting from 55,000 won and going up to 130,000 won.

After launching the pilot B2B 5G services simultaneously in December, South Korea annouced it would launch consumer 5G service by the end of March. But there was a minimum delay. When the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G hits the retail market on Friday 05 April, all three mobile operators in the country, SKT, KT, and LG Uplus (LGU+), are expected to switch 5G services on. In addition to fast internet, there will also have a 5G UHD live broadcasting service that KT is going to launch.

In the run-up to it, all three of them have published the price list of their data packages:

south-korea-5g-pricing

Earlier in March, the Ministry of Science and ICT rejected a price proposal from SKT that set the entry price at 70,000 won ($62), deeming it too expensive and “restricting consumers’ choice.” The three operators then agreed to set the starting price according to the Ministry’s expectations at 55,000 won ($48). Park Jung-ho, SKT’s CEO was quoted by the local media outlet The Investor, “there was a request for a pricing plan in the range of 55,000 won (from the government). We are about to wrap up the discussion.”

Despite the equal starting price, there are differences between offers. While a 55,000 won package on KT and SKT will get the consumer 8GB data, the same price on LGU+ will come with 9GB. The most expensive offers on SKT and LGU+ are priced at 120,000 won and 95,000 won respectively, giving users 300GB and 250GB. Any packages from 80,000 won upward on KT will give users unlimited data.

There are also different speed caps. Speed will be capped at 1Mbps if the user chooses the starting package from KT and LGU+ and goes beyond his data limit. Higher package users on KT will have unlimited speed, while speed for users of LGU+’s higher packages will be capped at 5Mbps and 7Mbps if they go beyond their monthly data limit. KT also offers free international data roaming (185 countries outside of South Korea), but the roaming data speed will be capped at 100Kbps on the 80,000 won and 100,000 won packages, and at 3Mbps on the most expensive130,000 won package. SKT has not released details on its data speed cap policies.

However, although the 80,000 won package with unlimited data on KT is cheaper than the current LTE packages offered by the operators, consumer advocacy groups argue that 5G users could end up paying up to 20,000 won ($18) per month more than they do now with LTE unlimited data packages now. This is calculated by including the high price of the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, which is set to be sold at 1.4 million won ($1,231). The LG V50 ThinQ is only going to be able to reach the retailers in Korea after May, company sources told ZDNet. There is no information when or if the 5G smartphones from other suppliers will reach the Korean market.

“Those who spend 30,000 to 40,000 won on telecom bills would not be able to use 5G network services. It is the worst pricing plan in the era of worsening income disparity,” said People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, an activist group, quoted by The Investor.

Ericsson gets some commercial 5G work from KT

Korean operator KT is buying a bunch of 5G NR kit and software to help it launch 5G commercially in a few weeks’ time.

It has been a decent week for Ericsson’s 5G sales team, with TDC in Denmark also signing on the dotted line. This latest win is the first commercial deal resulting from Ericsson being chosen as a 5G supplier late last year. They’ve presumably been working on this for a while, since the launch is so imminent, but KT only just gave Ericsson the green light to go public about it.

“Having worked successfully with Ericsson on 4G LTE, we are pleased to continue that partnership to make our 5G ambitions a reality with Ericsson’s leading 5G technology,” said Jinho Choi, VP of Access Network Design at KT. “By taking a global lead to enable nationwide commercial 5G services through commercially available 5G smartphones, KT is demonstrating our commitment to our customers and showing how we can drive a global 5G ecosystem where Korea plays a key role.”

“We’ve worked with KT for many years to bring the very best mobile user experiences to its customers,” said Patrick Johansson, Head of Ericsson Korea. “Notably on 5G, we worked closely together to show the world what 5G could do during a major global winter sports event in 2018. With 5G we aim to help KT to take their customers’ experiences to new levels, whether through enhanced mobile broadband for mobile subscribers, or helping to make national and global IoT and Industry 4.0 opportunities a reality for enterprises and industries.”

Specifically this gig concerns KT’s 3.5 GHz Non-Standalone (NSA) network. Korea is set to be the first country to offer some form of 5G nationwide on a commercial basis, although how many people will be able to make use of 3.5 GHz spectrum remains to be seen. In practice this is likely to be a Seoul thing, but it’s nonetheless an additional win for Ericsson to be associated with it.

SK Telecom looks to the edge to monetize 5G

SK Telecom has announced the launch of its ‘5G Mobile Edge Computing Open Platform’ in an effort to marry two of the industry’s hottest topics.

While 5G has dominated industry discussions for years, this years Mobile World Congress saw edge computing steal at least some of the limelight. This may well be evidence of a more pragmatic approach to connectivity ROI, with telcos removing some of the buzz surrounding 5G and creating a more realistic story about how to commercialise the connectivity bonanza; 5G is only one step forward, but the edge is another.

“By opening up the ‘5G Mobile Edge Computing Platform’, SK Telecom will secure the basis for expanding the MEC-related ecosystem and accelerating the release of 5G services,” said Park Jin-hyo, CTO of SK Telecom. “SK Telecom will join hands with diverse companies throughout the globe to boost the adoption of MEC-based services.”

As part of the initiative, SK Telecom will offer enterprise customers the opportunity to improve customers Quality of Experience (QoE) by connecting their service server or data-centre to SK Telecom’s MEC platform. SK Telecom will also provide open Application Programming Interfaces to enable customers to easily develop MEC-based 5G services.

By enabling the edge, ideas such as the smart factory become more of a reality. SK Telecom claims that latency can be reduced by up to 60% by using the edge.

Although the traditional means of generating revenue in the telco space has been through very simplistic and consumer orientated marketing strategies, this cannot be the case for 5G. Such is the expense of deploying a network which meets the connectivity expectations of tomorrow, leaning on traditional business models will likely not work. To realise the promise of 5G, initiatives such as this one, which encourages more creative projects with enterprise customers, are an excellent step forward.

This was perhaps one of the most satisfying outcomes from Mobile World Congress this year, as while some might have viewed the switching on of 5G networks as somewhat of an anti-climax, for us it was a very palatable outcome.

The focus on the edge, and the dampening of 5G hype, set the stage for progress. Yes, the industry has spent a lot of the futureproof networks, and yes, investors are craving the promised profits, but conversations felt much more realistic, pointing towards the work which still needs to be done. Afterall, 5G should be viewed as a catalyst to secure new revenues, not as the silver bullet.

KT and Nokia will join hands to launch first ‘true’ 5G this month

Korea’s mobile operator KT is going to launch nationwide 5G service this month and will collaborate with Nokia to provide services and tools for the business and the public sectors.

Hwang Chang-Gyu, KT’s Chairman and CEO, recently announced that KT’s nationwide 5G network will be switched in March to cover 24 major cities, key transport routes such as expressways, subways, high-speed railways, large universities, and neighbourhood shopping areas. This will be an upgrade from the synchronised launch of 5G services with limited scale on 1 December 2018 by all the three national mobile operators.

“In March, KT will be the first in the world to introduce ‘True’ 5G mobile services,” said Hwang. “In the 5G era, neckband cameras, AR glasses and all kinds of devices will be connected to 5G, contributing to a better life for mankind.” That this was a personal historic moment should not to be lost. Exactly four years ago at MWC 2015, Hwang predicted a commercial 5G network by 2019. “Today, I would like to announce that the promise I made four years ago has finally been fulfilled,” Hwang added in his MWC speech.

The current 5G service that KT, SKT, and LG Plus are offering is fixed-wireless access targeted at business users. During the recent MWC, KT demonstrated plenty of 5G gimmicks for the consumer market, from a 5G connected robot butler bringing a bottle of water to the doorstep to a 5G and AI powered robot barista fixing cocktails.

KT is clearly banking big hope on 5G. Its Economic and Management Research Institute predicted that the socioeconomic value created by 5G will contribute to 1.5% of the country’s GDP by 2025. To realise such potential and to achieve serious monetisation of 5G, KT is looking towards the enterprise market and the public sector. The company announced that it plans to focus on five key areas with its 5G offers: smart cities, smart factories, connected cars, 5G media, and the 5G cloud. It says it is collaborating with various businesses as well as the Korean government to develop 5G services for both Business to Business (B2B) industries and Business to Government (B2G) sectors.

This is an echo to what Marcus Weldon, Nokia’s CTO and the President of Bell Labs, called for during his own speech at MWC. Weldon suggested the telecom industry should focus more on serving other verticals instead of on consumer markets, to deliver the true value of 5G. He did concede that it would need three to five years before telcos can see meaningful revenues from enterprise 5G. But when they do, Weldon predicted the business will soon equal that being made in the consumer 5G segment.

It just happened that KT and Nokia are going to collaborate closely in 5G. During MWC the two companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on various 5G technologies. “We are excited to partner with Nokia to conduct these path-breaking trials,” said Jeon Hong-Beom, KT’s CTO. “This collaboration will ensure that we are able to leverage Nokia’s proven solutions and best-in-class professional services to provide a superior and differentiated experience to our subscribers.”

“With Korea, one of the lead countries in the early deployment of 5G, we are delighted to be working with KT to help them build a future-ready network,” added Bhaskar Gorti, President of Nokia Software. “Nokia’s end-to-end portfolio will empower KT to improve its customer experience and network efficiency.”

The key areas of the collaboration will include Service Orchestration and Assurance for the 5G era, with the aim of delivering end-to-end automation and new revenue opportunities for KT’s enterprise customers. This will be supported by the enabling technologies like NFC and network slicing. The joint work will start in Seoul later this year.

Korea switches on 5G

All three of Korea’s major mobile operators switched on 5G networks simultaneous at midnight on 1 December, offering business FWA based on 3GPP standards.

The launches marked Korea as the first country to have more than one commercial 5G network. The largest operator SKT, launched the service in 13 cities, while LG U+ plans to expand its 5G coverage to 85 cities by the end of the year. KT, the second largest mobile operator and the leading fixed-line services provider, which recently suffered a fire damage to its cable tunnel, is said to be only covering the greater Seoul area with its 5G network.

The services offered are limited to business users on fixed-wireless access. The launch at LG U+ was signalled by a video call made from a PC by the operator’s Vice Chairman. SKT’s CEO made a call using a prototype 5G smartphone. Both the wireless router and the prototype phone were supplied by Samsung, which sent out a congratulatory tweet for the occasion:

Infographic: Who do Telecoms.com readers think is winning the 5G race?

Last week, research from Deloitte placed China at the front of the pack in the race for the 5G dream, so we asked Telecoms.com readers in a snap poll who they thought was winning.

Deloitte’s reasoning was built on the progress of network densification programmes across the country, its throwing sites up all over the place, and also future investment allocations. It seems Telecoms.com readers agree with the consultancy as well.

We suspect the ‘someone else’ option was directed at a European nation, though considering only 6% decided to select this one, it is not looking good for the continent.

5G Leadership Infographic

 

Korean operators make pact to avoid undermining each other on 5G

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus have all agreed to launch 5G services at the same time to avoid the potentially blood-thirsty race in pursuit of the ‘first’ accolade.

According to The Korea Herald, the three telcos came to the agreement in a meeting with Yoo Young-min, the Minister in charge of the Ministry of Science and ICT, with the targeted launch date set as March 2019. While it is certainly a nice gesture, whether the telcos are able to stick to such a commitment remains to be seen.

“It is important for mobile carriers to avoid heated competition for the title of world‘s ‘first’ 5G service provider in order for Korea to become a nation that can commercialize the 5G service for the first time in the world,” said Yoo.

Although this situation should be viewed as the exception not the rule, this is a familiar sounding message. The development and standardization of 5G was painstakingly thorough partly with the ambition of all operators crossing the line together, preventing a fragmentation of the technology, and in turn, interoperability. Should the operators stick to their promise of March 2019 launch, the paranoia over competition could be removed, rushed decisions can be eradicated and deployment should be effective. Racing to the finish line can lead to mistakes, but a collaborative approach like this should put Korea in a very good position overall.

Last month the much anticipated Korean auction for 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands for 5G services was completed. For the 3.5 GHz band, SK Telecom spent roughly $1.1 billion for 100 MHz of spectrum, with KT paying a bit less, $870 million, for the same. LG Uplus bagged 80 MHz for $728 million. Honours were even for the 28 GHz band, with each collecting 800 MHz. The trio will be free to start using the bands from December, hopefully leaving enough time to thoroughly test enough use cases ahead of the March deadline.

Whether the loving trio can keep on good terms for another eight months remains to be seen, but the friendly route might just work out in everyone’s favour in the long run.