South Korea's SK Telecom (SKT) is trying to beat local rivals to the launch of 5G services with the formation of a 200-person task force dedicated to the rollout of the next-generation mobile technology, according to a recent report from the Korea Times newspaper.
Suh Sung-won, the head of SKT's mobile network operation (MNO) division, is said to be in charge of the task force, which reportedly includes staff from across four divisions -- MNO, media, Internet of Things (IoT) and service platforms.
In a statement seen by the Korea Times, SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) said it had put "considerable … manpower" focused on autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and IoT into the task force, showing where many of its 5G priorities lie.
It has also indicated that its task force will try to come up with new business models for 5G and collaborate with other companies on 5G standards and technical development.
According to the Korea Times, it has sent requests for proposal to companies developing commercial 5G equipment, with the aim of introducing standardized gear as soon as possible.
The initiative comes several weeks after the 3GPP, the mobile industry standards group, locked down 5G new radio specifications, allowing equipment vendors and operators to begin actively preparing for the launch of 5G services. (See 5G Is Official: First 3GPP Specs Approved.)
The initial "non-standalone" variant of 5G will require operators to use the 5G NR specifications with older 4G network systems, but should still support higher-bandwidth and lower-latency connections than 4G radio technology.
SKT competes against KT Corp. and LG U+ in the South Korean market, which is regarded as one of several countries pioneering the rollout of 5G technology. Japan and the US are also seen to be at the forefront of 5G development.
During a recent interview with Light Reading, Park Jin-hyo, SKT's chief technology officer, said his aim was to launch 5G services in early 2019 and that 5G networks would become "the main ones" after 2020. (See SK Telecom CTO: 'We Need New Business Models for 5G'.)
The operator plans to use spectrum in the very high 28GHz band to support ultrafast services in more densely populated communities, relying on the much lower 3.5GHz band for wide-area coverage elsewhere.
Asked about the commercial outlook for 5G, Park Jin-hyo voiced concern that "over-the-top" providers like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Facebook and Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) had been the "biggest beneficiaries" of 4G rollout. He said SKT was dedicating resources "to the development of a new [5G] business model," without sharing more details.
He also indicated that SKT was working closely with vendors including Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. to bring 5G devices to market in the first half of 2019.
Korea Telecom also aims to launch 5G services in early 2019.
— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading