SK Telecom’s fronthaul technology adopted as 5G standard in Korea

seoul train
SK Telecom's fronthaul technology was adopted as a Korean national standard.

Small and midsized equipment vendors will have a more receptive environment in which to do business in Korea thanks to SK Telecom’s fronthaul technology being adopted as a Korean national standard, according to the operator.

Specifically, SK Telecom’s newly developed 5G network technology was adopted by the Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA) at its annual conference in Seoul.

As SK explains it, a 5G network requires a higher base station density with a higher capacity for data processing than 4G LTE. Such requirements emphasize the significant role of fronthaul in transmitting the radio signals received from cell sites to the central units. Fronthaul is the wired connection between the central units and the distributed ones.

What makes the newly developed specifications of fronthaul notable is its openness, according to the operator. In the case of LTE fronthaul, major vendors have used their own specifications because no official standard existed. Such a variety has served as a barrier to entry for small- and midsized vendors and startups to the market.

With its 5G fronthaul specifications set as a national standard, SK’s approach to open standards is likely to add momentum to smaller vendors’ efforts to join the 5G ecosystem in Korea.

To make matters even better, SK Telecom has promised to closely work with local small- and midsized vendors to develop network equipment that meet its fronthaul specifications. It will also seek out opportunities for further collaboration with stakeholders, both locally and internationally, to boost the adoption of the specifications as a 3GPP standard.

“In the world of 5G, where data transmission volume goes large along with a dramatic increase in the types of services available on the network, open standard-based fronthaul architecture is critical,” said Park Jin-hyo, head of Network Technology R&D Center at SK Telecom, in a release. “We are committed to boosting the growth of the 5G ecosystem in collaboration with local vendors and start-ups.”

SK isn’t the only one getting recognized for its 5G work. KT’s 5G network slice orchestration technology also was accepted by the TTA at its annual congress, The Korea Herald reported. With KT’s technology, carriers can organically slice and allot their network infrastructure to power various types of 5G carriers; it was chosen as an international standard by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in September, the publication noted.

Architectural decisions for network slicing are still being worked on in 3GPP RAN3 TS 38.301 section 17.3, according to a white paper (PDF) published this week by 5G Americas. Examples of RAN network slices include machine type communication (MTC), real-time local video, public safety and mobile health.