Almost two weeks after launching its 5G commercial network in South Korea, SK Telecom flagged an agreement with German telecom giant Deutsche Telekom (DT) to carry out joint projects in the field of mobile edge computing (MEC) for 5G.
The South Korean operator has agreed to partner with MobiledgeX, a U.S.-based subsidiary formed by DT earlier this year to provide a platform for developers to work on low-latency applications. It’s run as an independent company to attract other operators to participate, and it’s located in Menlo Park, California.
This latest announcement follows an agreement announced in October 2018, when the two carriers said they planned to exchange funds to help bolster each other’s 5G deployment plans. The agreement called for SK Telecom to invest an unspecified amount into MobiledgeX. DT, in turn, is to invest the same unknown amount into Swiss-based ID Quantique, which is an SK Telecom strategic partner that focuses on quantum cryptography communication technology.
The SK Telecom side of the bargain now seems to be taking on a sharper form and reflects what the two carriers describe as an “aligned vision” on the role they expect, and hope, mobile carriers will play in the future development of mobile applications.
Jong-kwan Park, senior vice president and head of the Network Technology R&D Center of SK Telecom, noted that in the 5G era, MEC — also now referred to simply as edge computing — “will be a key technology for next-generation industries including realistic media and autonomous driving.”
On a 5G Roll
The Korean carrier is certainly continuing the 5G momentum since it launched its 5G commercial network at the beginning of December 2018, alongside similar launches by rivals Korea Telecom (KT) and LG Uplus.
It has also just collaborated with network partner Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies on the execution of a data call using equipment based on the 5G new radio (NR) standard over the carrier’s live 5G network in Busan, South Korea. The data call was transmitted over 100 MHz of 3.5 GHz spectrum using a smartphone form-factor test device equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 5G modem.
The move was hailed by Ericsson as a consolidation of its appointment by SK Telecom as a preferred 5G vendor. The Swedish vendor said it is providing the carrier with 5G NR radio, baseband, and Ericsson network management systems for its 5G commercial network launch.
SK Telecom is also working with Samsung, which said in September 2018 that it would work with the carrier on the commercial deployment of core and RAN solutions based on the non-standalone (NSA) 5G NR standard. Like Ericsson, Nokia has also been selected by the carrier as a preferred bidder for 5G.
Crowded at the Edge
Meanwhile SDxCentral has already noted that it’s getting rather crowded in the field of mobile functions running on edge infrastructure, with MobiledgeX far from the only player. For sure, the Facebook-backed Telecom Infra Project is using MobiledgeX software in its Edge Application Developer Project, which involves DT and Intel.
At the same time, the Linux Foundation recently opened up the seed code for the Akraino Project to support carrier availability and performance needs in cloud services optimized for edge computing systems and applications. That seed code was initially developed by AT&T.
Then there is the newly-formed Edgility initiative that is helping operators manage the computing resources across their networks. That group was developed by AT&T and Cloudify.
Perhaps one of the bigger initiatives casting a shadow across the space is the ETSI Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) group. That organization last year released its first package of standardized APIs to expose network information for authorized third-party applications.