Speaking at the 5G North America event here this week, Alex Jinsung Choi, EVP and head of corporate R&D at SK Telecom, noted that the company is involved in numerous open source projects as it attempts to move from a centralized network to a more distributed network that promotes lower latency. However, he also said that there are too many different open source communities, each with a different mission which is causing fragmentation. “There are too many fragmented communities,” Choi said. “Harmonization is needed.”
Choi then rattled off the numerous open source communities that SK Telecom is working with: The Telecom Infra Project (TIP), the Open Compute Project (OCP), the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), ON.Lab, Mobile Central Office Re-Imagined as a Data Center (M-CORD), and xRAN, which covers the extensible radio access network.
Choi also said that while it’s important for operators to work toward disaggregating their networks, they also have to continue to comply with the 3GPP standards, which is why industry collaboration is so critical.
But Choi did criticize the 3GPP for its rather lengthy meeting schedule and suggested it meet more frequently (every month) in order to accelerate the 5G standards process. “We are in critical situation and at a critical time. I urge them to hold their meetings more frequently.”
Choi also elaborated on SK’s network plans moving forward, which he believes will help the operator look more like a webscale company where cloud servers handle core network functions.
SK’s Next-Gen Network
SK Telecom is calling its next-generation network AtScale and Choi highlighted some of the core principals of AtScale, including the following:
- The unbundling of software and hardware functions and the separation of the control and user planes.
- The use of open source for both hardware and software and opening up the fronthaul.
- The ‘softwarization’ of most network functions.
- Cloudification, which is the automation of the network operations and the migration of the network from being a capital-intensive business to more operational expense-centric.
SK Telecom has been pretty open about its 5G deployment plans and Choi reiterated the company’s plans to deploy 5G commercially in the second half of 2019. He also said that the company expects to have 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) radios in smartphones by 2019, indicating that the network will support mobile, not just fixed wireless.