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Mobile carriers will upgrade 5G networks

Jan 23,2020
Korea’s three mobile carriers, SK Telecom, KT and LG U+, on Monday provided details of their plans to offer more stand-alone 5G services during the first half of 2020.

Stand-alone 5G refers to a different type of mobile network that only uses 5G in its transmission structure. Korea’s initial rollout of 5G was a non-stand-alone deployment, meaning the network is partially aided by the existing 4G LTE infrastructure, mainly in the wired sections. It has faced criticism for its slow connection speed and issues with latency, the response time when connecting to the network.

The “real” 5G network, according to the mobile carriers, will halve that reaction time and triple the current 5G network’s data transmission speed.

However, once a stand-alone 5G network is rolled out, companies will have to come up with new smartphones that support stand-alone 5G services. 5G-enabled smartphones available in the market are optimized for the non-stand-alone network introduced in 2018.

SKT successfully ended its stand-alone 5G network tests in Busan last week. The company said it can provide 5G stand-alone services through a software upgrade without replacing its base stations and that it also completed multi-vendor operability - meaning that the network can operate using different brands of network equipment.

KT and LG U+ are also investing heavily in research and development to offer their own stand-alone 5G networks.

KT said last December the company secured “Control and User Plane Separation” technology (CUPS). The technology is used for processing big data and can help raise the network’s speed and minimize latency.

LG U+ also successfully completed its multi-vendor interoperability test using the company’s own stand-alone 5G network, which it hopes to offer to end-users as soon as possible.

An analyst for the telecommunications industry said that such a change would accelerate the development of new technologies.

“A faster 5G network is likely to boost services such as augmented reality, virtual reality, self-driving cars and smart factories” the analyst said.

BY KIM KYOUNG-JIN [kang.jaeeun@joongang.co.kr]