Telco giants Verizon and SK Telecom have announced another 5G tie-up as they look to begin trials of more advanced mobile technologies in the next few months.
The operators say they have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on turning 5G technical specifications into global standards. The tie-up will also see them carry out a number of joint studies to identify use cases and applications for 5G technology.
Both operators have taken a leading role in the emerging 5G ecosystem amid industry expectations that the first commercial services based on a 5G standard will appear in 2020.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), which operates the largest mobile network in the US, plans to launch a fixed wireless 5G pilot next year, while South Korea's SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) is similarly aiming for a pre-commercial 5G deployment in 2017. (See Verizon Cleared for Take-Off on Fixed 5G and SK Telecom Targets Pre-Commercial 5G Deployment In 2017.)
The latest partnership appears to build on the formation of the 5G Open Trial Specification Alliance at this year's Mobile World Congress, although it does not involve Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) or South Korea's KT Corp. , the other members of that group.
In a statement on their latest alliance, Verizon and SK Telecom said they have already held a "technical coordination/cooperation meeting" to share ideas in a number of 5G-related areas, including the Internet of Things (IoT) and infrastructure virtualization.
As a result of that meeting, the companies have agreed to work more closely together within the Open Compute Project, an industry initiative whose goal is to ensure hardware technologies can better support growing demands.
Verizon and SK Telecom will also combine their efforts in another related initiative called Mobile Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (M-CORD).
M-CORD seeks to build on the better-known CORD project by taking advantage of developments in mobile edge computing and the virtualization of mobile infrastructure components.
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The need for central offices that can function as datacenters is likely to grow in the 5G era, as operators look to bring a virtualized 5G core much closer to their customers.
Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), for example, is currently retiring central offices as part of its pan-European network project, but the operator has acknowledged it will need to open new facilities as it begins to roll out 5G. (See DT's Pan-Net Picks Up the Pace.)
Verizon and SK Telecom are among a number of multinational operators prioritizing 5G but have arguably been more aggressive in this area than most of their rivals. (See AT&T Lights Fire Under 5G, Plans 2016 Trials, TeliaSonera, Ericsson Join 5G Early Movers, Russia's MTS to Trial 5G in 2018 and DoCoMo & EE Share 5G Visions.)
The early successful testing of pre-5G technologies should help to speed up the development of a 5G standard, giving operators the opportunity to launch a new range of services around the 2020 timeframe.
Service provider executives are particularly keen on taking advantage of a technique called network slicing, enabling a single mobile infrastructure to cater to a variety of different needs, from high-definition video streaming to low-latency connectivity for machines. (See 5G Calls for EU Rethink on Net Neutrality, Net Neutrality Rules Threaten 5G, NFV – Telenor and 5G: Hurdles on the Track.)
Advances in 5G, including the rollout of software and virtualization technologies, should allow operators to realize these network-slicing ambitions.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading