SK Telecom has been one of the most aggressive carriers when it comes to advancing 5G, as the South Korean operator hopes to have an initial drop of the standard ready to trial by 2018.
Ahead of this month's T Dev Forum, SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM)'s developers conference with 400 participants looking to build for a 5G future, Light Reading caught up over email with two of the carrier's key 5G visionaries, Dr. Changsoon Choi and Dr. Jong-Han Park, both of whom are senior managers of SK Telecom's 5G Tech Lab and Corporate R&D Center. (See 5G Use Cases, Pre-Standards Groups Proliferate , SK Telecom, Samsung Team Up on 5G R&D and SK Telecom, Ericsson Collaborate on 5G Research.)
They shared their thoughts on everything from what 5G will entail to how small cells, WiFi, SDN and NFV factor in to meeting the challenges this next-generation presents. Read on for the full interview.
Light Reading: There's been a lot of talk about 4G network advancements, 4.5G or 5G-ready technology, but how does SK Telecom define true "5G"?
SK Telecom: SK Telecom holistically defines 5G as end-to-end network architectures and services, promising the greater values in terms of (1) user experience, (2) connectivity, (3) reliability, (4) efficiency, and (5) intelligence. Out of the five values, the first three are the most significant.
5G guarantees a consistent user experience. To support the timely delivery of real-time media with ultra-high quality, one of our goals is to guarantee 1Gbit/s bandwidth per user with 1 ms radio latency.
5G efficiently supports massive connectivity. We expect that there will be diverse vertical services based on IoT, and 5G networks intelligently manage resources in a cost-efficient manner based on the actual usage patterns and requirements of different services.
5G is highly reliable. Being reliable all the time for all the use cases may be prohibitively expensive. Therefore, it becomes important to carefully classify and define certain use cases, such as public-safety networks and selectively provide high degree of reliability.
LR: Will 5G be a "rip and replacement" new network or just incremental improvements to 4G? Which makes more sense from a technology and business model perspective?
SK: 5G is based on both continued evolution from 4G and a completely new, revolutionary technology.
We will continue to develop and commercialize 4G technologies as we move towards 5G, which is expected to launch in 2020. Also, as revolutionary technologies are not available yet, mobile operators need to start thinking about technologies that require incremental improvement, and those that need to be newly developed. Although these revolutionary technologies will not become available all at once, 5G will be a great opportunity for operators to carefully rethink and redesign their networks as many network components will either be enhanced or replaced.
The same thing applies from a business model perspective. There will be new services that can be provided on the evolved 4G. However, these services will be incremental and add slightly increased values. When the new technologies are fully implemented around 2020, a set of new services and business models will also be introduced.
LR: Is 5G an architecture or a new air-interface?
SK: 5G and its services introduce widely varying challenges and requirements. Some of these challenges such as peak data rate may be tackled by a new air-interface, and some challenges such as reduced end-to-end latency may be addressed at an architectural level. In other words, evolutions and revolutions are needed in both the architecture as well as the air-interface to meet the requirements introduced by the services.
More specifically in the 5G vision of SK Telecom, 5G consists of three layers: 1) hyper-connected radio, 2) all-IT infrastructure as enabling platform and 3) innovative services. Several tens of Gbit/s speed and extremely low latency will be provided over the new 5G radio. A service-oriented architecture must support various 5G services by intelligently connecting and orchestrating seemingly disjointed underlying resources. Taking full advantage of the underlying service-oriented architecture, 5G services are expected to offer a highly reliable and immersive user experience. To achieve successful 5G commercialization, all three components are indispensable.
Next page: SDN/NFV, small cells, WiFi and a timeline