SK Telecom wins big at the 2019 Global Telecoms Awards

In the year that 5G finally made its commercial debut, Korean operator SK Telecom’s fast start helped it win three awards at the 2019 Glotels.

As well as being voted the best operator of 2019, SK Telecom also won awards for 5G implementation and BSS/OSS transformation. Not content with its three wins, SK Telecom was also highly commended in the consumer IoT and fixed network categories, bringing its awards total on the night to five. Other notable performers were Huawei, with two wins and a highly commended, and ZTE with one win and two highly commended.

“I feel confident in saying that this was the strongest set of entries to the awards we’ve had yet,” said Telecoms.com Editor Scott Bicheno (pictured above with Chang-min Park of SK Telecom), who hosted the awards alongside comedian Miles Jupp and was also one of the judges. “Our judges had a really tough job choosing between so many great products, services and projects this year and for that I thank them. The fact that so many entries were highly commended shows how close the scoring was. My congratulations to the winners and thanks everyone who contributed to our best awards yet.”

Here’s the full list of winners:

5G Implementation Excellence  

Winner – SK Telecom: World’s First 5G Commercialization

 

Advancing Artificial Intelligence               

Winner – Telefónica: Aura

Highly Commended – Nokia: AI as a Service for CMCC Hainan

 

Automation Initiative of the Year             

Winner – Huawei: AUTIN

 

Best 5G Innovation         

Winner – Vodafone Germany: Automotive Factory of the Future

Highly Commended – China Mobile, China Southern Power and Huawei: Smart Grid 5G Slice Operation and Monetization

 

Best Digital Transformation Project        

Winner – Infosys and Vodafone UK: Digital Platform

Highly Commended – Singtel: Unboxed

 

Best Operator    

Winner – SK Telecom

Highly Commended – Reliance Jio Infocomm

 

BSS/OSS Transformation Excellence        

Winner – SK Telecom: OSS Evolution for E2E integration and 5G Business

 

Connecting the Unconnected     

Winner – Ufinet: Rural connectivity case studies

 

Consumer IoT Initiative of the Year         

Winner – O2 and Accenture: Making UK homes smarter energy users

Highly Commended – SK Telecom: V2X Service Enabler (VSE)

 

Digital Transformation Innovation          

Winner – BT: The Digital Business Marketplace

Highly Commended – Netcracker: Digital Transformation Solution

 

Fixed Network Evolution             

Winner – Turkcell: Customer Oriented Failure Prioritization and Complaint Management

Highly Commended – SK Telecom: Giga Premium 10G Residential Broadband Internet Service

 

Ground-breaking Virtualization Initiative            

Winner – AT&T: Edge Solutions

 

Industrial IoT Initiative of the Year          

Winner – Dialog Axiata: Affordable and Purpose-built IoT Solutions for Industries in Emerging Markets

Highly Commended – ZTE:  ZTE NMVP Solution

 

Innovating in the Cloud 

Winner – MYCOM OSI: The Assurance Cloud

 

Managed Services Innovation of the Year            

Winner – Ericsson and Telenor: Common Delivery Center for innovative Managed Services model

Highly Commended – Saudi Telecom Company: STC Fixed Network Customer Operations Service transformation

 

Mobile Device Innovation           

Winner – Reliance Jio Infocomm: JioPhone

 

Mobile Money Mastery 

Winner – AsiaHawala and Comviva: AsiaHawala powered by mobiquity Money

 

Most Innovative Cloud Service  

Winner – Tata Communications Transformation Services: Cloud Networking and Security as a Service

Highly Commended – Red Hat: Red Hat open hybrid cloud technologies

 

Project Delivery Perfection         

Winner – ZTE: ZTE for China Mobile ‘He-Fetion’ Project

Highly Commended – X by Orange: X by Orange with Red Hat

 

Security Solution of the Year      

Winner – Mobileum Signalling Firewall

Highly Commended – CUJO AI: AI-powered cybersecurity technology

 

Telecoms Transformation            

Winner – Huawei: NFV-SDN based telco cloud technology initiative

Highly Commended – ZTE: 5G Slicing Wholesale Solution for New B2B2C Business Model

 

SK Telecom and Samsung reckon we need 8K TV over 5G

Korean tech giant Samsung has teamed up with compatriot operator SK Telecoms to develop what they claim will be the world’s first 5G 8K TV.

On one level this should just be as simple as whacking a 5G modem into an 8K telly, but there seems to be more to it than that, hence the announcement. SK Telecom says that only when it applies mobile edge computing and network-based media processing to its 5G network will it be able to achieve seamless transmission of 8K video. The fact that those sorts of technologies are in the 5G roadmap anyway is beside the point.

Which brings us to the likely real reason for this announcement: to generate positive publicity for both companies. 5G has long been in danger of being a technological solution in search of a problem and the same could certainly be said of 8K video, in a world that is still trying to work out whether it sees much value in 4K.

“The 5G-8K TV is the culmination of ultra-low latency 5G networks combined with ultra-high definition TV technology,” said Park Jin-hyo, CTO and Head of ICT R&D Center at SK Telecom. “5G technology will help make the world of hyper media a reality.” Hyper media seems to refer to telly augmented by all kinds of other internet gimmickry.

Short of producing a 5G dongle it’s not clear what Samsung is bringing to the project other than cash and its consumer electronics brand. Nowhere is it explained why it’s preferable to deliver all this hyper media goodness over 5G rather than fibre, nor is it openly discussed what the minimum screen size would be beneath which the human eye is unable to discern any difference between 4K and 8K. But these are just details that shouldn’t detract from our jubilation that the 5G 8K era is almost upon us.

SK Telecom claims 1 million 5G subscriber record

Korean operator SK Telecom has announced it’s the first to accumulate a million 5G subscribers, just four months after it was made available.

While this is an impressive achievement, it only represents 3.5% of its total subscriber base of 28 million. Having said that SK Telecom managed to hit this milestone twice as quickly as it did with 4G, which it launched in 2011. Those million early adopters are using 33.7 GB of data per month, compared to the 4G average of 20.4 GB.

“SK Telecom will continuously develop innovative contents and services specially designed and optimized for 5G network to provide differentiated experiences to our 5G subscribers,” said Ryu Young-sang, Head of the MNO Business at SK Telecom. The press release also took the opportunity to big-up the recently-launched Samsung Note 10 5G.

South Korea has emerged as the world’s commercial 5G test-bed. SK Telecom has put a lot of work into providing services, such as HD video streaming, that make use of the additional bandwidth offered by 5G and that seems to be paying off. While certain trends may be unique to local consumers, any operator looking for 5G monetization tips could do worse than pay Korea a visit.

LGU+ jumps to the top in 5G testing

Irrelevant as to whether South Korea was actually first to launch 5G or not, it’s the first market Rootmetrics has tested comprehensively and LGU+ have come out on top.

US telcos have argued over the small print of launching the first 5G network, but South Korea was the first to open its networks to smartphones on April 3. All three crossed the finish line together, an intended objective of the South Korean Government, though the outcome four months later is not exactly the same.

Looking at the top-line figures, it perhaps isn’t what you would expect. LGU+, often considered the third-placed player in the market, has led the way, with SK Telecom and KT trading blows just behind.

Maximum 5G speed Median 5G speed 5G Latency Reliability (staying connected)
KT 751 Mbps 163 Mbps 107 ms 99.9%
LGU+ 902.1 Mbps 426.4 Mbps 72 ms 97.9%
SK Telecom 638.7 Mbps 286.9 Mbps 195 ms 99.9%

Currently there is no point of comparison globally, Rootmetrics has not completed similar reports in comparable markets just yet, though the maximum speed being demonstrated by LGU+ is faster than we have seen posted by analyst speed tests in the wild in both the US and UK.

What is worth noting is this is nothing more than a bit of an ego boost for the moment. As there are few (if any) mobile applications which demand such speeds the maximum speeds are little more than a redundancy currently, though it will appeal to consumers.

Traditionally, telcos have spoken to consumers in a very simplistic manner. The desirability of telcos were judged on download speeds along, though that will have to change in the future. If telcos are going to justify asking for increased tariffs, they will have to deliver more than faster downloads that rivals, as soon enough consumers will cotton onto the fast they do not need 900 Mbps to do the vast majority of things on a smartphone.

However, for the moment the status quo is being maintained and consumers will still be drawn in the by ‘bigger, meaner, faster’ mentality being demonstrated today. This is where LGU+ might be able to steal a couple of subscriptions off rivals.

Interestingly enough, it has been reported Huawei is a supplier to LGU+ but has been snubbed by both KT and SK Telecom. This is not a suggestion the speeds have been driven primarily by Huawei’s inclusion, but it is an interesting differentiator between the rivals.

This is a good comparison to give 5G a bit of context, however a comparison between markets such as Switzerland, US and the UK will offer much more insight into the deployment strategies.

Swisscom, SK Telecom, Elisa and BICS claim world’s first 5G roaming services

The very small number of people who are capable and inclined can now roam between the 5G networks of Swisscom and either SK Telecom or Elisa.

Swisscom has over 6 million mobile subscribers but hasn’t revealed how many of them have upgraded to 5G. Since Swisscom only started to roll out its 5G network in April of this year, it seems safe to assume its 5G subscriber base is struggling to hit six figures. Of those, owners of Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphones can now fly from Zurich to Seoul confident of maintaining their newly-won boosted download speeds. The converse is true of SK Telecom’s 5G punters.

“SK Telecom once again proved its leadership in advanced roaming technology with the launch of world’s first 5G roaming service” said Han Myung-jin, Head of the MNO Business Supporting Group of SK Telecom. “We will continuously expand our 5G roaming service to enhance customer experience and benefits.”

“We want to offer our customers the best network – both in Switzerland and abroad,” said Dirk Wierzbitzki, Head of Product and Marketing at Swisscom. “So we are proud to be one of the world’s first providers to offer 5G abroad. We will continue to expand 5G availability abroad with additional partners.”

Swisscom has struck up a similar deal with Finnish operator Elisa, which is also claiming the world first, so it looks like SK Telecom has a fight on its hands. We were amongst the first countries to start building 5G networks in Finland,” said Elisa’s Director of Consumer Handset Subscriptions Jan Virkki. “Now that Swisscom has opened their 5G network, we are more than happy to be able to provide the ultrafast 5G to our consumer and corporate customers travelling to Switzerland.”

Roaming specialist BICS also wants a piece of the action, having got involved in the SK Telecom gig. “Today’s successful implementation of a trans-continental 5G data roaming relation further endorses our position at the forefront of global mobility for people, applications and things,” crowed Mikaël Schachne, CMO and VP Mobility & IoT Business at BICS. We couldn’t find any other corporate chest-beating over this bit of news but there probably was some.

SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom buddy up for 5G

Collaboration is one of the key works currently floating around the 5G world and it seems SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom haven’t missed the memo.

At a meeting attended by roughly 100 executives, the two operators announced a partnership with the ambition of seeking the promised revenues in the 5G epoch. As it stands, 5G is nothing new. It’s bigger, badder and faster than 4G, but that is not going to satisfy the financial demands of the telcos who need to invest so heavily in the future-proofed networks. The joint venture company created as a result of this partnership will be first tasked with developing new 5G technologies.

Initial focus will be to develop 5G repeater and a 5G in-building solution, as well as a Multipath UDP solution to manage accesses for a seamless connectivity experience and MPEG Media Transport (MMT) technology for low latency media streaming.

“Through partnerships with companies throughout the world, SK Telecom aims to expand beyond the realm of mobile communications to become a global ICT company,” said Park Jung-ho, CEO of SK Telecom. “And I expect this, in turn, will lead to the revaluation of assets and competitiveness of SK Telecom.”

“DT/SK Telecom partnership continues to be of strategic importance for both DT and SK Telecom.” Said Timotheus Höttges, CEO of DT. “We want to work together to make tangible result and strengthen our partnership also with closer technical cooperation.”

This sort of joint investment should not perhaps come as the biggest of surprises considering the pair signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019. There is also the fact Alex Jinsung Choi, DT’s SVP of Research and Technology Innovation, was formerly the CTO at the Korean telco.

As part of the agreement, SK Telecom will also contribute $30 million to DTCP, an investment management group with $1.7 billion assets under management and advisory from Deutsche Telekom. The group is tasked with seeking new investment opportunities in technology, media and telecommunication sectors across Europe, the US and Israel. Moving forward, DTCP will open an office in Seoul to identify new opportunities with SK in Asia.

Looking at the greater opportunities for telcos in the 5G era, this could work out to be a very useful partnership for DT. Offering more products and extracting more revenue from enterprise customers is seem as a key objective, and the Asian telcos have progressed further here. Conversations with the verticals have been in play for longer periods of time and these telcos are closer to creating specific products for specific verticals. DT could certainly learn a thing or two.

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.

We’ve hit the go button on 5G, now what?

If the years of sleepless nights and hype are actually going to mean anything, 5G has to deliver more than 4G possibly could, and right now it isn’t.

This might sound like an incredibly negative comment, but it is a realistic assessment of where the industry actually is today. Hitting the on button was simply the first phase, it delivers an enhanced 4G connectivity environment. The big question is what comes next.

“Is 5G a premium product?” Ovum’s Dario Talmesio asked at 5G World today. “Of course, it is a premium product. This is a step change to what we can experience on today’s products in 4G.

“At the moment, the monetization of 5G is similar to that of 4G. This is the most simplistic monetization model. But we won’t be able to do anything new until ‘real 5G’ emerges.”

This is where the big challenge for the industry is about to emerge. The first usecases are simplistic ones, building on the ‘bigger, badder, faster’ mentality of the telecommunications industry. It makes the ‘pipe’ bigger, allowing more data to flow through it, and faster, enabling faster download speeds.

An example of this enhanced connectivity model is over at Verizon. Speaking at the same event, Ronan Dunne, President of Verizon Wireless, pointed towards the increasingly worrying strain being placed on the network. 5G allows Verizon to meet these demands, reduce the strain on the network and increase profitability through technology efficiencies.

Another gain is on the convergence side of telecoms. In areas where Verizon does not have a fixed network, Dunne pointed towards the FWA alternative which 5G enables. Three UK is another company which is exploiting this product and there are numerous other telcos who are eyeing up FWA as a proposition to build bigger product portfolios.

Customers might be willing to pay for this incremental upgrade, but it doesn’t fix the bigger issue in the telco space; adding extra value, and therefore seeking new revenues.

This is not a new idea. One of the basic ambitions of 5G is to evolve the telco from a communications service provider to a digital service provider. But how are the telcos getting on in searching for pastures new?

As you can see from the slide below, it hasn’t been the most ambitious start.

INSERT PIC OF DARIO PRESENTATION

Although you can see there are ambitions to take advantage of newly emerging segments, these are areas which the telcos already operate in. Entertainment, media and smart cities will certainly add some weight to the telco cause, but they will have to venture further afield.

SK Telecom is one company which is pushing the boundaries of the acceptable norm, though this should not really come as a surprise considering the leadership position South Korea has crafted.

During his own presentation, Takki Yu confirmed SK Telecom is challenging itself to seek out new ideas and business cases.

“5G era has begun, let’s do anything which we can imagine,” said Yu. “That is the key message from SK Telecom.”

An interesting point made by Yu was about the mentality of SK Telecom. The team is aiming to bring anything which would be considered offline today into the mobile mix. It does sound very ‘blue-sky thinking’, but it is important to think about new ideas. Many telcos will claim they are doing this, though there is little evidence to support the PR plugs.

Looking at the POCs which SK Telecom is exploring, there is quite a bit of breadth. In partnership with the Sinclair Group, SKT is working towards 5G-based broadcasting services, it is investigating the potential of a 5G-hospital with Yonsei Severance, with WeWork it is working towards a 5G-smart office, with the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Center the team is exploring the next generation of smart factories and it has set-up a smart city in the Incheon Free Economic Zone.

As Ovum’s Dario Talmesio pointed out, the issue many telcos are facing is a lack of industry-specific knowledge. Creating these solutions for the verticals, and integrating them appropriately, cannot be done if the telcos remain as a silo. This is what the Asian telcos have been doing very well over the last few years; partnering with industry verticals. Unfortunately for the European telcos, they are playing catch-up here.

Right now, the world might be wowed by the incredible speeds which are being delivered through 5G networks, but the truth of the matter is that this will not last forever. The wow-factor will fade, and soon enough customers will realise it isn’t actually that innovative. Soon enough, the 3GPP will unveil Release 16 and ‘real’ 5G will emerge. This is where the telcos will have to be very attentive or risk being relegated to the role of connectivity partner.

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.

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.