Build a good enough 5G platform and services will take care of themselves: SK Telecom

sk telecom 5G
Jin-Hyo Park, senior VP of network technology R&D at SK Telecom, talks 5G strategies at 5G Asia

For operators still unsure which services will justify 5G deployments, don’t worry about it – just build a platform that enables other players figure out the service angle for you.

That was the advice (paraphrased) from Jin-Hyo Park, senior VP of network technology R&D at SK Telecom, who pointed out during the opening morning keynotes at 5G Asia in Singapore Tuesday that no one knew really what the business case for 4G was, either.

“What will be the big services for 5G? We don’t know yet, but when when we launched LTE in 2011, our marketing guys asked, ‘What is the killer app?’ We didn’t know, and they wondered why would the customers switch to 4G, because they’re already satisfied with 3G,” Park said.

“But the third parties and OTT players offered new services using the LTE network, and daya usage increased dramatically. So with 5G it’s a similar situation – third parties and OTT players will use 5G to introduce new services.”

Park admitted that it wasn’t yet clear what the growth drivers for 5G would be from the consumer point of view.

“What are the drivers for 5G? Speed? Latency? Bandwidth? We don’t know for sure,” Park said. “With LTE you can download a 2GB file in 27 seconds. With 5G it takes 3.2 seconds. But is that compelling enough to get users to switch to 5G and change their handsets? Maybe not.”

The answer could lie in specific apps that 5G’s technical capabilities could help perform better. For example, 5G makes 4K mobile video streaming more feasible, which would encourage users to stream video to devices rather than download them first. “We saw the same thing happen with music and 4G,” Park observed. “With 3G, users downloaded music, but with 4G they were able to stream music, and now most people stream rather than download music.n With 5G, will see the same change for video.”

5G’s latency capabilities could also make a difference by not only enabling mission-critical apps like autonomous driving, but also drastically improve the performance of existing apps like augmented and virtual reality, he added.

Much of this points to the ability to differentiate services, which will be key for operators – even advanced ones like SK Telecom that plan to be first out of the gate with commercial 5G.

Park said SK Telecom will have a pilot 5G network running by the end of the year, and will commence trials next year with the aim of launching the first commercial services between 2018 and 2020, “depending on availability of 3GPP-compliant handsets.”

But even with that head start, he said, “we still have a lot of homework to do in terms of how to differentiate services.”

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