Incumbent operator KT was scheduled to launch its LTE network this week, although a court decision yesterday to delay shutting down its CDMA network may put things on hold.
Cloud powers Korea Tel's LTE network
Whenever the launch happens, at least one thing setting KT’s network apart from the competition from a technology POV is the virtualized management architecture supporting it.
KT’s LTE network sports a so-called “Cloud Communications Center” (CCC) architecture, developed in partnership with Samsung and Intel, which involves a distributed base station architecture with radio units connected by fiber to a centralized exchange full of digital units that carry out the signals communications processing on Intel servers via Samsung modems.
More interestingly, the CCC also leverages virtualization technology to centrally manage network conditions, which enables KT to flexibly allocate radio resources by time and place according to the volume of data traffic, says Yung Kim, senior EVP and CSO, head of strategy planning and investment at KT.
“For example, at a sports stadium you can dynamically allocate more resources for that area during a game on a millisecond basis,” says Kim.
Under the CCC architecture, KT can manage 144 base stations on one server, with 1,000 servers in one data center. “We use the virtualization technology so that all these servers act as a single entity that can allocate resources and manages interference,” says Kim.
All of this not only saves KT money on real estate, physical equipment management and centralized operations management, but also gives KT the competitive edge of boosting capacity by improving coverage at the edge of each cell, says Kim.
“We’ve gained over two times capacity in the same cell because of improved edge management.”
The CCC strategy also puts an emphasis on software over hardware by running almost everything on general-purpose processors rather than dedicated custom ASICs, Kim says, as modern general-purpose chips are up to the challenge. “This could trigger a different business model in terms of product ownership – instead of buying boxes, you’re buying a software license and a service agreement.”
Speaking on the sidelines of a GSMA Asia-Pacific conference in Fukuoka Wednesday, Kim also admitted this approach scared away some potential vendor partners before Samsung decided to step up to the plate.
“When we developed this concept, we asked different vendors if they could do this for us, but they said no. Only Samsung said they were willing to work with us to do this.”
Kim didn’t reveal more details about the LTE launch, but the incumbent will have its work cut out for it. Rivals SK Telecom and LG U+ have a five-month head start in the LTE race.
Also, as mentioned above, KT’s plans to shut down its CDMA network today and refarm the 1800-MHz spectrum for LTE fell through – at least for now – after users filed a class-action lawsuit last week, claiming KT didn’t give them enough advance notice.
Yesterday – after Kim previewed KT’s CCC architecture and spoke to telecomasia.net – a court suspended the Korea Communications Commission’s decision to approve the 2G shutdown. KT can still use its 800-MHz spectrum for LTE, but no word yet on whether the LTE launch will go ahead without the 1800 band.