SK Telecom said that the test used spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band

South Korean carrier SK Telecom says it has completed the first call in a test bed using commercial 5G equipment provided by compatriot firm Samsung Electronics.

The carrier said the test utilized the 3GPP 5G New Radio Non-standalone (NSA) specification and commercial 5G NR equipment. The call took place at the company’s 5G testbed located in its Bundang office building.

SK Telecom and Samsung carried out the test by using 100-megahertz of bandwidth in the 3.5 GHz band.

“The Korean mobile carrier’s preparations for 5G commercialization are several months ahead of global competitors,” SK Telecom’s CTO Park Jin-hyo said. “SK Telecom will spend the next few months on maximizing the quality of upcoming services,” he added.

According to Samsung, the 5G service launch via mobile dongles in December will mark a global first, while it is preparing to make 5G services available for smartphones in March 2019 as planned.

“Samsung is gearing up for impeccable 5G services through preparations,” said Cheun Kyung-whoon, executive vice president at Samsung.

Last month, SK Telecom announced it had selected Samsung Electronics for the provision of 5G solutions, including a 3GPP Release 15-compliant core and 5G NR Radio Access Network.

SK Telecom and Samsung Electronics said they will begin 5G commercial deployments in October 2018 using the 5G Non-Standalone architecture. NSA uses a legacy 4G LTE network for mobility control, and transmits gigabit-speed data traffic through both 4G and 5G networks.

Since 2014, the two companies have been jointly exploring and studying the potential of 5G to create ideal commercial scenarios using both 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz. In June 2017, the companies carried out an interworking of 4G LTE and 5G NR utilizing 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum.

Ericsson and Nokia will also supply 5G equipment for SK Telecom, according to previous reports.

In April this year, the three South Korean mobile operators announced plans to share the costs for the deployment of a nationwide 5G network in the Asian nation. The initiative reportedly will be carried out by SK Telecom, KT, LG Uplus as well as broadband operator SK Broadband. This shared infrastructure projects had the main aim of avoiding redundant investment in 5G deployments, according to government officials.

In June, South Korea completed a tender process through which it awarded spectrum in both the 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands. The government made available a total of 280 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band and 2,400 megahertz in the 28 GHz band. The spectrum was divided into 28 blocks and 24 blocks.

Participant operators SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus had a 10-block cap per spectrum band. The telcos paid a total of 3.6183 trillion won ($3.3 billion) for the spectrum, 340 billion won higher than the starting price of 3.3 trillion won.

South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT confirmed that operators can start using the 5G frequencies in December, with the 3.5 GHz band licenses covering a ten-year period and the 28 GHz band licenses a five-year term.

The three carriers have been carrying out several trials of 5G to pave the way for commercial launch scheduled for March 2019.

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