SK Telecom increases investment in AI, IoT on road to 5G

South Korea (Pixabay)
SK Telecom is working with partners to establish a support center in Seoul as part of the Telecom Infra Project.

SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest mobile carrier, certainly has been a leader in the race to 5G, and now comes news that the company will invest a total of $9.2 billion over the next three years to develop technology and services around the Internet of Things (IoT) and lay the foundation for 5G.

SK Telecom CEO Park Jung-ho emphasized the urgency of a new $4.2 billion investment in artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and IoT on Wednesday, according to The Korea Herald. “As we witnessed at the CES 2017, investment in creating the New ICT ecosystem can no longer be postponed,” Park said in a statement. “SKT will establish the new system through cooperation with others.”

The company is working with Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker Nvidia on using SK’s mobile navigation T Map for the Korean map that will be included in autopilot technology Nvidia is developing. SK Telecom, in return, is using Nvidia technologies to upgrade T Map’s content, Korea JoongAng Daily reported.

SK also has its own IT solution and semiconductor affiliates, C&C and SK Hynix, to develop AI and cloud technologies for upgrading the T Map navigation service and for connected cars. As part of the Telco Infra Project that Facebook kicked off last year, it’s in the process of setting up a startup support center in Seoul in partnership with Facebook, Nokia and Intel within the first half of this year.

Last week at CES 2017, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf mentioned during his keynote that Qualcomm is working with AT&T, Ericsson and SK Telecom on 5G New Radio trials set to launch this year. SK has said its trials with Ericsson and Qualcomm will use 3GPP 5G NR Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques to deliver sustained mobile broadband communications at higher frequency bands, including non-line-of-sight environments and device mobility. It will also make use of scalable OFDM-based waveforms and a new flexible framework design that are also part of the 5G NR specifications.

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SK has already invested in IoT technology. Last summer, SK completed the nationwide deployment of Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) based on LoRa technology for the IoT. By securing both nationwide LTE-M and LoRaWAN, which are two main pillars of the IoT network, SK Telecom said it would be fully ready to create business opportunities in the IoT era. The company completed a nationwide LTE-M rollout in March 2016.

SK offers a virtual home assistant based on voice recognition technology called NUGU, a Korean word for “who,” which looks a lot like Amazon’s Echo but is the first home assistant service to understand and process the Korean language. SK Telecom began developing advanced technologies in areas including artificial intelligence, speech recognition and natural language processing back in 2012. NUGU connects to the cloud via Wi-Fi.

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Last fall, SK Telecom announced that it had successfully tested, with Samsung, handover between 5G base stations at 28 GHz in an outdoor environment. They conducted the trial using multiple millimeter-wave base station systems connected to the operator’s fiber-optic infrastructure.