SK Telecom and KT are intensifying competition for taking leadership in 5G. They are not only boasting that they have more influence in discussing international standardization at the 3GPP, a mobile communication standardization group, but also saying that they implemented the world's first 5G (demonstrations and network construction).
5G international standardization is expected to be completed by 2019. Some experts say that excessive competition between SK Telecom and KT is giving rise to confusion only.
SK Telecom announced that the company succeeded in demonstrating data communication based on the 3GPP's 5G international standard for the first time in the world at Ericsson Headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden with Ericsson and Qualcomm in the morning of December 21. In the morning of the day, the 3GPP held a general meeting in Lisbon, Portugal and approved the NSA (non-standalone)-based 5G standard. SK Telecom said that they did it on the standard for the first time.
"We have been developing technology based on the standard first released to 3GPP member companies on December 8. We were able to succeed in demonstrating it first by quickly upgrading base stations and handsets simultaneously with the establishment of the standard," an SK Telecom official said.
In particular, "5G demonstrations have been conducted based on the independent standard of each company," the official said. "We succeeded in demonstrating the 5G international standard so we have become able to take the initiative in the commercialization of the technology by using this equipment in Euljiro and Bundang."
SK Telecom believes that a 5G demonstration network KT built for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics is based on the “PyeongChang standard” only and does not meet international standards so many parts of the network will need eliminating or upgrading after the Olympics.
However, KT evaluated that the company was leading the way in 5G international standardization by building a communication network for a tentative 5G service at Incheon International Airport and in Pangyo, Gwanghwamun, Gangnam Daero, Pyeongchang, Gangneung, Bokwang and Jinbu as official telecommunication service provider for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.
KT said that the company greatly contributed to advancing the establishment of the non-standalone (NSA)-based 5G standard approved by the 3GPP and developing the standard.
"The NSA-based 5G standard based on the 5G know-how of KT which set the Pyeongchang 5G SIG standard and conducted tests in cooperation with Samsung, Qualcomm, Nokia, and Ericsson,” a KT official said.
"We have been contributing to the establishment of the standard of the 3GPP 5G structure by suggesting an NSA network structure in the Pyeongchang 5G SIG standard for the first time in the world," he added. “KT has actively participated in the standardization of 3GPP 5G through the submission of hundreds of exclusive technical contributions and hundreds of joint contributions."
KT believes that SK Telecom is lagging behind KT. KT is publicizing itself, saying that KT is the only Korean company that has secured the 5G common standard, a 5G chipset, a 5G system, and 5G services.
With respect to 5G, SK Telecom is focusing on commercialization based on international standards and KT on taking the initiative in international standards through the success of a tentative service during the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. But some experts are critical of them.
The two companies are also competing for the installation of conduits for Olympic telecommunication networks despite the mediation of the PyeongChang Olympic Organizing Committee, and are having a war of words over technical superiority over the 5G standard which has not been set yet.
"Autonomous vehicles, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) have been mentioned as killer services of 5G but it is quite a real challenge to predict what 5G services will be well received by consumers and what business models 5G will create,” an industry observer said. "It goes against national interest that the two companies are excessively duking out in order to take the leadership in 5G."