Back To Top

[Herald Interview] Who will be first 5G provider? No one has advantage yet, says Intel engineer

Intel’s Korea expert says, ‘Korea will aggressively deploy 5G, and be good place for smart cities’

While mobile operators and equipment builders around the world say their fifth-generation network solutions and services are ready for commercialization, Robert J. Topol, in charge of 5G technology at Intel, does not think anyone has an advantage now in the absence of international standards.

“We are all targeting 2019 for having a lot of solutions ready,” said Topol in an interview with The Korea Herald at Intel’s booth during the Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona last week. “But I don’t think anyone has (an) advantage right now as far as the timing because we all rely on standards.”

However, Topol who flew from PyeongChang to Barcelona right after the closing ceremony of the Olympics, said he believes Korea will be one of the first movers.

Topol has been in Korea for the past few years to demonstrate cases of 5G use with KT for the PyeongChang Winter Games, including the jaw-dropping drone performance by Intel during the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Feb. 9. 

Robert J. Topol (Intel)
Robert J. Topol (Intel)

“Korea will aggressively deploy 5G and it will be one of first countries to establish 5G network equipment,” he said. “Due to its leadership position in 5G use cases, other countries and network operators will learn from Korea as one of the first movers.”

The new radio specifications agreed by 3GPP in December reflected that many of the study ideas and specifications sought by KT were adopted, although there were some minor differences in details, Topol explained in recognition of KT’s contribution to setting new standards.

In response to a question of who would be the first 5G provider in Korea, the Intel official refused to directly mention a particular partner, but stressed that having end-to-end solutions would be the key to anyone preparing for 5G.

One of Intel’s advantages is that the US tech mogul is selling a fixable processor dubbed “field-programmable gate array platform” that enables quickly changing the operations of a network system based on any new program or specification standards once the solution is applied.

At the MWC venue, Intel and Huawei’s networks were communicating via the Intel platform, showing that the two companies’ equipment are compatible and can talk to each other on the new standards.

“Once the standards are ready in December, we will immediately announce what solutions we can provide,” he said.

Topol showed interest in Korea’s government-led smart city projects in Sejong and Busan as he shared Intel’s vision for a smart city.

“(A) smart city is based on all things being connected. Your car’s connected and your phone, and the street lights and some city infrastructure have sensors. You can collect a lot of data, help them produce artificial intelligence, help the street light and electrical power to be smarter, driving a lot of efficiency,” he said.

“To make smart cities successful, you will need good partnerships between public and private companies, because the public will have to provide those services whether it would be utilities, electricity or street lights in the long term, but private companies (have) the technologies to help them prototype and test them.”

The government needs to start testing different areas with different focuses, for example an energy-focused area and another with a focus on transportation. Then, the municipality will find technologies that work, what’s viable and what’s cost effective for the government, companies and consumers, Topol said.

“Intel looks at smart cities with end-to-end solutions where sensors, data centers and clients work all together, from cloud all the way down to clients,” he said. “We look forward to smart city partnerships where we can help.”

By Song Su-hyun (