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SK Telecom claims standalone 5G data session is world’s first

South Korean telco proclaims 5G breakthrough that makes it set to be first to provide standalone 5G services in the first half of this year

In a move that simultaneously establishes the country as a world leader in 5G and places itself as top dog in a hugely competitive marketplace, Korean telco SK Telecom has revealed that it has successfully accomplished the world’s first standalone 5G data session on its multi-supplier commercial 5G network.

The move, described as a major breakthrough for the 5G arena, will allow SK Telecom to launch the world’s first 5G standalone service in the first half of 2020.

The standalone 5G data call took place on 16 January 2020 in Busan, the second largest city in Korea, using SK Telecom’s commercial 5G network deployed in that region. The company applied standalone New Radio (NR) software to its existing non-standalone 5G base stations, and completed multi-supplier interoperability between network equipment of Ericsson and Samsung.

SK Telecom has also applied key 5G technologies such as network slicing and mobile edge computing (MEC) to its standalone 5G network. Network slicing is being highlighted as an essential technology for providing optimal support for different types of 5G services by partitioning a single physical network into multiple virtual mobile networks.

MEC is designed to minimise latency by providing a shortcut for data transmission through installation of small-scale data centre at 5G base station or router. MEC can improve the performance of ultra-low latency 5G services such as cloud gaming, smart factory and autonomous driving.

Earlier in January 2020, SK Telecom unveiled the Global MEC Task Force, in cooperation with Singtel, Globe, Taiwan Mobile and PCCW Global. The companies are uniting to make joint efforts to develop MEC technologies and services, setting international MEC standards and building an interoperable MEC platform.

“With the successful standalone 5G data call on our multi-vendor commercial 5G network, we are now standing on the threshold of launching standalone 5G service, a key enabler of revolutionary changes and innovations in all industries,” said Park Jong-kwan, vice-president and head of 5GX Labs of SK Telecom. “SK Telecom will offer the best 5G networks and services to realise a whole new level of customer experience in the 5G era.”

Standalone 5G networks have been tested worldwide, but Asia stands out as a hotspot for the field. In December 2019, China Mobile in Hong Kong announced that it had successfully accomplished a 5G standalone network test and completed the first voice over NR call in Hong Kong.

In the same month, Swedish comms tech giant Ericsson revealed Asian projects that could create new 5G services for consumers and enterprise customers with emerging technologies, among which was the successful completion of 5G standalone voice services.

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