SK Telecom (SKT) started 2019 as it clearly means to go on, with a statement of intent regarding its 5G plans and claims of another 5G first: a live TV broadcast over the Korean carrier’s commercial 5G network to ring in the new year.
SKT, which along with domestic peers KT and LG UPlus switched on commercial 5G services on December 1, 2018, said the airing of the new-year countdown, bell-ringing ceremony and interviews at Bosingak, a large bell pavilion located in Jongro-gu in Seoul, represented the world’s first live TV broadcast using a 5G commercial network and new streaming solution.
The broadcast on the entertainment channel XtvN lasted for around eleven minutes and also used the carrier’s T Live Caster solution that is designed to enable live broadcasting of videos taken by smartphones. The video was said to have been broadcast at a latency of less than one second. SKT further announced plans to upgrade T Live Caster during 2019 to enable it to support UHD video and also revealed its intention to enter the drone broadcasting market using 5G following the signing of an agreement with drone manufacturer DJI in 2018.
Of course, 5G is already littered with claims of “firsts,” and each new claim has to be treated with caution. Other recent claims relating to the delivery of video over 5G came from Italian carrier TIM, Ericsson, and Qualcomm in December 2018. The three companies said they completed “the first, live video call in Europe using 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum.” The call was made during the inauguration of TIM’s new 5G Innovation Hub in Rome.
SKT has certainly been at the forefront of 5G rollouts, nevertheless, joining the likes of Verizon and AT&T as one of the first carriers globally to launch commercial 5G services. The Korean carrier has also set out its intentions for the coming year, proclaiming it will create “visible results” that center on 5G and artificial intelligence.
Park Jung-ho, the president of SKT, also emphasized the need for greater cooperation in the 5G era as “the pace of change and competition in the world will become even more intense.” He outlined the carrier’s ambitions to collaborate more with its ICT division to tackle areas such as 5G-based B2B services, the delivery of IPTV and over-the-top content services over 5G networks, security services in the 5G era, and the internet of things.
For sure, 2019 should see further progress with 5G, although some reality checks could be in the cards as expectations exceed actual experiences. Indeed, reports are already surfacing that AT&T’s fledgling 5G network is so far proving to be a disappointing experience in terms of speeds, according to posts on Reddit. One post showed a Speedtest result of 194.88 Mb/s on the downlink using AT&T’s Netgear Nighthawk 5G hotspot. That does sound fast, but the poster obtained 187.44 Mb/s on AT&T’s 4G network in the same location.
In terms of 5G, it’s going to be an interesting year!