SK Telecom trials Intel chips for 5G standalone core network

SK Telecom CEO speaking about 5G
The Intel technology will help SK Telecom improve performance in latency and jitter for high priority traffic. (SK Telecom)

SK Telecom has trialed 2nd generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors and Intel Ethernet 800 Series network adaptors as part of its transition to a 5G Standalone core network. The Intel technology will help SK Telecom improve performance in latency and jitter for high priority traffic. 

An Intel spokesperson said, “The partnership between Intel and SK Telecom was indeed an R&D project. However, SK Telecom noted that they plan to roll it out with Samsung later this year or early next. The announcement of the project also demonstrates to the larger industry that 5G SA core is ready to be deployed in the network for the full 5G end-end experience.”

Alex Quach, VP of Intel’s Data Platforms Group, said most operators around the world are still leveraging a 4G core network. “The way different service providers implement their 5G core is going to vary,” said Quach. “Every service provider has unique circumstances. The transition to a new 5G core is going to be different for every operator.”

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“For SK Telecom we did this R&D project, which they will now start working with Samsung to implement,” said Quach. He added that most 5G services, on any global network, are running on 5G New Radio, connecting with a 4G core.

Asked if SK Telecom has now completed its 5G Standalone core network, the South Korean carrier was vague in an email reply to FierceWireless. “To commercialize standalone 5G service in Korea, we are currently making diverse R&D efforts including conducting tests in both lab and commercial environment. Our latest achievements include the world's first standalone (SA) 5G data session on our multi-vendor commercial 5G network.

RELATED: SK Telecom, Samsung fete interoperability test with 5G SA core

In late March, SK Telecom said it had created around 70 5G Clusters in key commercial districts and densely populated areas throughout Korea. 5G Clusters are built with more base stations than other 5G coverage areas to offer an optimal 5G environment for services like AR and VR.

Intel and 5G

Intel is in the business of silicon innovation and hardware platforms. But Quach said the work with SK Telecom also included software that Intel helped develop in order to prove-out the hardware. “We have in-house software capability that we use from an engineering perspective,” he said. “We don’t productize this software. But we write code and contribute to open source, then have software to run these core network workloads to show what’s possible on Intel platforms.”

Intel then shares this code with major vendors such as Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung.

Besides working with SK Telecom on its 5G core, Intel is also working with Rakuten, Telstra and BT on their 5G core upgrades.

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