[ITU 2017] Korean telcos speeding up 5G network to prepare for new era

By Shin Ji-hye
  • Published : Sept 24, 2017 - 15:44
  • Updated : Sept 24, 2017 - 15:44
The fifth-generation network is a key factor for up-and-coming data-oriented technologies.

Virtual reality, self-driving automobiles, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, which will be at the forefront of future industries, require a network that can transmit massive data seamlessly. 


To keep pace with the future connected world, Korean telecom operators KT, SK Telecom and LG Uplus are speeding up the development of the fifth-generation mobile network, or 5G network, with the aim of commercializing it by 2019.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, a 5G network must promise download speeds of up to 20 Gbps (billions of bits per second). The network should support at least 1 million connected devices per square kilometer with a response time of less than 0.001 second and also support mobile devices moving at up to 500 kilometers per hour.

Over the past year, the three telecom operators have demonstrated the 5G network as pilot projects using both the 3.5 gigahertz low frequency band and the 28 GHz high frequency band.

The high frequency band is good at transmitting massive data but is vulnerable to obstacles, while the low frequency band is suitable for sending data over longer distances and has better penetration capacity. The combination of high and low frequencies is critical to Korea’s geography, which is mixed with mountainous regions and cities.

KT is expected to unveil the world’s first 5G network through its pilot project for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Next month, the firm is slated to demonstrate a 5G-based self-driving bus made by Hyundai Motor, which will officially run for the Olympics next year. The 5G network will allow the bus to receive traffic information such as those related to other vehicles and obstacles in real time through control centers. Data will be able to be transmitted at a speed of up to 20 Gbps in moving vehicles, according to KT.

Meanwhile, SK Telecom announced it would build 5G network infrastructure in K-City, the nation’s pilot city for self-driving automobiles. In the 363,000 square-meter pilot venue in Hwaseong city, a 5G network with 20 Gbps download capacity will be built.

Early this year, SKT also demonstrated the 5G network within a connected car traveling at 170 kilometers per hour in partnership with BMW Korea and Ericsson. In the moving vehicle, data was transmitted at the speed of 3.6 Gbps.

LG Uplus, the nation’s smallest telecom operator by sales, is also speeding up the adoption of 5G network, although it was a latecomer to the 5G race.

Last month, its Chairman Kwon Young-soo met with Nokia’s top management to discuss future partnerships on developing 5G technologies. The two firms jointly developed the Self BackHole Node, a core component for the 5G network, and demonstrated the technologies during the Mobile World Congress early this year.

Experts say the commercial launch of the 5G network will bring about massive jobs and economic benefits in the future.

US market research firm IHS Markit predicted 5G network technology will create around 22 million jobs and create $3.5 trillion of economic effects by 2035 through the value chain of mobile communication, equipment and handsets.

According to a survey done by the US consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland, more than 90 percent of 3,588 business leaders from the US, Korea, China, France, Germany, the UK and Japan were upbeat about the commercialization of the 5G network, saying it would improve productivity and create new industries.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorpcom)