SK Telecom Boasts 5G Standalone First in South Korea

South Korea’s SK Telecom is claiming another first in its home market where many technological firsts occur. The operator says it successfully tested and used a 5G standalone (SA) terminal, base station, and network core earlier this summer.

The successful data transmission on a pure 5G network was initiated with base stations and core equipment from Ericsson and terminals from Qualcomm, according to SK Telecom . The operator is no stranger to early adoption — it previously laid claim to the world’s first commercially available standards-based mobile 5G network in December 2018. The operator says it plans to commercialize its 5G SA infrastructure in the first half of 2020, along with other new capabilities such as network slicing and mobile edge computing (MEC).

SK Telecom isn’t the only operator advancing to a 5G SA core, but it is among the earliest and most advanced to date. During the last few months, T-Mobile US completed a 5G SA data session using equipment from multiple vendors.

The global analysts commented, generally in Asia there is much more interest and commitment to move to SA and this is motivated by the more aggressive push for 5G, especially in South Korea and China. Operators that are only using 5G in millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum, which is largely the case in the United States, have little incentive to rush to a 5G SA core.  Moreover, for all the benefits of SA it will require substantial work and a new approach to legacy networks. Taking an example, some of 5G’s most touted benefits such as network slicing require SA but it only makes sense in the near term for operators that are ready to implement network slicing. 

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