SK Telecom wants faster 5G standards progress

25 February 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

South Korean operator SK Telecom is pushing hard with three others to speed up development of 5G mobile technology because it is disappointed with the time the standards bodies are taking.

Alex Jinsung Choi, CTO of SK Telecom, said the company is working with rival Korean operator KT, plus Verizon of the US and NTT DoCoMo of Japan to “accelerate development of 5G specifications”.

SK Telecom is wanting to demonstrate working 5G at the time of the 2018 winter Olympics, which will be held in South Korea. Rival firm KT is the official telecoms provider at the Olympics.

“We cannot wait forever,” said Choi of 3GPP, the international standards body that is most closely involved in setting mobile standards. “We agree 3GPP is the right standards body.”

Much of the industry is working towards agreeing standards before 2020, when they expect the first commercial services to be starting up. But this is too slow for SK Telecom and its partners, said Choi, in an interview with Capacity.

The four companies want an interim specification “in the 2017-18 timeframe”, he said. “We highly respect 3GPP but different markets have different needs. It’s totally reasonable that regional operators have different schedules. Maybe in Europe 5G is not so much in demand.”

Operators in South Korea, Japan and the US “have publicly announced that they will roll out 5G trials soon”, he said. “The competition is getting fierce. China is very interested in 5G as well.”

Choi wants to have the interim 5G standard agreed in “late 2017”, he said. “We haven’t set any deadline but we have vendor partners to work with us.” He listed Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia, as well as Huawei, though it is “not currently a vendor partner”, he said.