SK Telecom is considered one of most progressive operators when it comes to 5G development. Last year Juniper Research ranked the operator No. 1 on its list of “most promising” 5G operators for its extensive time in development; the breadth and value of the operators’ 5G partnerships; and its progress in 5G network testing.
So it is not particularly surprising that the South Korean operator is already working on ways to use artificial intelligence (AI) to make its 5G network more efficient. The company realizes without AI there will be a lot manual operations necessary to constantly change the network parameters and settings and to adjust capacity. “We want to talk about how to efficiently operate 5G infrastructure using AI,” said Haesung Park, senior manager of the ICT R&D Center, network technology R&D center, access network lab at SK Telecom. Park will be speaking at the 5G New Horizons Symposium in Austin, Texas, May 16-17. The event, which is hosted by 5G Americas, will feature speakers from operators around the globe.
In an interview with SDxCentral, Park said that SK Telecom is talking to its global vendors about incorporating AI into its 5G network. However, he admits that the first phase of the company’s 5G deployment will probably not include AI. “AI-based operation will be two to three years later,” he explained.
Trials to Dominate Discussion
Park said that he plans to provide details on the company’s 5G trials as well as delve into the operator’s 5G commercialization plan at the New Horizon’s conference next month. He added that SK Telecom has been conducting trials using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum and spectrum below 6 GHz. It has also worked closely with Verizon Communications as part of the 5G Specification Alliance.
However, Park said that while the operator did use pre-5G standards for its trials and to test the feasibility of mmWave spectrum, it is now focused on the 3GPP standard. Specifically, it will use the non-standalone 5G New Radio (NR) specification when it commercially deploys its 5G network in the first half of 2019. “Our first phase will be non-standalone. Then we will move to standalone,” he said.
One big part of SK Telecom’s 5G plan rests on the company’s ability to secure more spectrum. South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT is planning to hold an auction in June to sell spectrum in the 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands. The government is still determining how exactly to structure the auction and whether to divide up the spectrum among the three wireless operators in the country, or allow them to bid for the airwaves.
Although that auction is not occurring until June, Park said the company is confident it can commercially deploy 5G by the first half of 2019. “It will be very fast,” he said. “Our government and the Koreans want to accelerate the 5G ecosystem.”
To hear more about SK Telecom’s 5G plans and to attend the 5G New Horizons event in Austin, Texas, register here.