Competition in the South Korean wireless market is fierce, with several companies vying to be first to market with 5G service. SK Telecom has maintained the lead in that race, successfully acquiring all the essential components for 5G commercialization using 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz frequencies.
Making these efforts possible is the company’s collaboration with Samsung. As Park Jin-hyo, senior vice president and head of Network Technology R&D Center of SK Telecom, said, “We will maintain our leadership in 5G by taking initiative in 5G New Radio (NR) standardization and commercialization.”
SK Telecom 5G NR Spectrum Trials
In June 2017, SK Telecom and Samsung completed a trial to deliver a SK Telecom 5G end-to-end connection. The test involved a SK Telecom 5G end-to-end connection, over the 3.5 GHz spectrum — through Samsung’s 5G virtualized core, virtualized RAN, Distributed Unit (baseband unit and radio unit), and test device based on the 3GPP 5G NR standards. (The 3GPP Release 15 standard is expected to be completed around the end of 2017.)
Testing saw speeds faster than 1-Gb/s and latency as low as 1.2 milliseconds. SK Telecom sees 5G in the sub-6 GHz spectrum as vital for use cases and applications (e.g., autonomous/connected vehicles) that require wider area network coverage. The two companies plan to continue their joint efforts to enable services that are optimized to 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz frequencies.
SK Telecom Connecting 4G and 5G
In September 2017, in Seoul, SK Telecom and Samsung demonstrated communication between 4G and 5G networks — an industry first, according to the companies. The communication occurred between the 4G LTE network using 2.6 GHz frequency band and the 5G network using the 28 GHz and 3.5 GHz band. The test experienced no disruptions, enabling clear streaming between the two networks. These results point to the potential of 4G and 5G users communicating even without a nationwide 5G network infrastructure.
“Along with the 5G network’s 3.5 GHz frequency band that provides a wider coverage, and the 28 GHz frequency band that enables ultrahigh-speed transmission, the connection with the 4G network will help users enjoy the best communications services anywhere without disruptions,” said SK Telecom, which believes that a connection between existing and new services will be essential to speed up 5G adoption