SK Telecom developed a fronthaul specification as an open standard to help small firms enter the market

Korean telecom operator SK Telecom announced its self-developed 5G fronthaul technology has been adopted as a Korean national standard by the country’s Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA).

SK Telecom developed the fronthaul specification as an open standard to help small and mid-sized vendors and startups enter the market, in contrast to LTE fronthaul where major vendors use their own specifications.

In 5G networks, a base station is separated into a central unit and a distributed unit containing antennas. Main digital controllers are nested in a central unit for processing, whereas a distributed unit is located at cell sites. The Korean telco said that this separation makes it easier to manage the quality of service and the level of maintenance as the central units are gathered in a single location. Fronthaul is the wired connection between the central units and the distributed ones, SK Telecom said.

The operator also said it plans to work with local vendors to develop network equipment meeting the standard’s specifications, and will seek opportunities to have the specifications adopted as a global 3GPP standard.

“In the world of 5G, where data transmission volume goes large along with a dramatic increase in the types of services available on the network, open standard-based fronthaul architecture is critical,” SK Telecom head of network technology R&D Park Jin-hyo said. “We are committed to boosting the growth of the 5G ecosystem in collaboration with local vendors and start-ups.”

SK Telecom recently announced that it has developed new relay technologies for 5G networks after its six-month-long collaboration with local partners.  The telco said this collaboration is a big step towards the creation of a 5G ecosystem in Korea.

The partners, including High Gain Antenna and SK Telecom subsidiary SK Telesys, have been involved in the development of new relay technologies, which will enable network operators to guarantee the stability of communications services even in the ultra-high frequency bands of 5G networks, and successfully applied it to the trial network, the Asian telco said.

In October, SK Telecom carried out a successful demonstration of essential technologies for 5G network communications in a real-world setting. The Asian telco said that it is accelerating its research and development efforts in order to roll out 5G service earlier than expected.

SK Telecom used an in-building 5G relay repeater operating in both 28 GHz and 3.5 GHz spectrum bands in the 5G trial network at the company’s Bundang office, in Seoul.

South Korea aims to complete the deployment of a commercial 5G mobile network in the second half of 2019, Heo Won-seok, director of ICT and Broadcasting Technology Policy at South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, said earlier this year in a conference in Tokyo, Japan.

The official said that the Korean government estimates that 5G will have a penetration rate of nearly 5% in Korea in 2020, the year in which 5G is expected to be launch in several markets worldwide. The official also said that 5G subscribers will represent 30% of total mobile subscribers in South Korea in 2021, 50% in 2020 and 90% in 2026.

In order to pave the way for the commercial launch of 5G by local operators, the government has plans to allocate spectrum in two years, the officials said.

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