SK Telecom and Ericsson build 5G with precision in the world’s largest 5G market
SK Telecom is providing differentiated 5G services in the world’s fastest growing 5G market, South Korea. Meeting these ambitions efficiently and economically requires solutions that can both support the required capacity and can be deployed and operated in an optimized way. Together, SK Telecom (SKT) and Ericsson are maximizing the potential of 5G.
5G live in South Korea
On April 3rd, SK Telecom introduced South Korea to a new era, the age of Hyper Innovation, with the commercial launch of their 5G network. With 5G downlink speeds that are 10 times faster than 4G, and that exceed 1 Gbit/s in stationary mode and 500 Mbit/s in mobile mode, SK Telecom has positioned 5G as a premium service as they take their customer experience to the next level. In addition to ultra-high speeds, 5G delivers rich content in diverse areas spanning gaming, ultra-high definition (UHD) video, and augmented and virtual reality (AR & VR) based applications. Today, South Korea is the world’s largest 5G market with more than 3 million 5G subscribers – a number that is growing rapidly and that may exceed 5 million by year end. 5G is also driving higher data usage with an average data consumption that has grown from 9 GByte/month on 4G to more than 25 GByte/month on 5G. To be the industry best in terms of 5G coverage, speed and latency, SK Telecom has been rolling out 5G in the 3.5 GHz mid-band in the main population areas of eighty-five cities, and other highly populated areas that have high concentrations of data traffic like university districts, high-speed trains, sports stadiums, metropolitan subway lines, and expressways. SK Telecom is also expanding coverage to include nationwide subways, national parks and festival sites. 5G coverage expected to expand.
Building 5G with precision
To achieve these 5G ambitions both efficiently and economically, SK Telecom is “Building 5G with Precision.” Building with precision is the Ericsson network rollout strategy that entails optimizing the network build by matching the right capabilities of Ericsson’s diverse RAN portfolio with the specific traffic and coverage requirements of each network radio site, and each SK Telecom market segment. Building with precision reduces a network operators’ capital and operating expenses. To lower costs while meeting the service requirements of each coverage and traffic area, SK Telecom has deployed, with Ericsson, three different 3.5 GHz integrated-antenna radio and standard radio configurations to date, as listed below. — 64 Transmit / 64 Receive (64T64R) Massive MIMO capable antenna-integrated radio — 32 Transmit / 32 Receive (32T32R) Massive MIMO capable antenna-integrated radio — 4 Transmit / 4 Receive (4T4R) radio unit
High capacity for dense urban areas
To meet the 5G capacity and performance requirements of SK Telecom’s most dense urban areas, SK Telecom rolled out the Ericsson AIR 6488. This high-capacity antenna integrated radio supports a 64 Transmit/64 Receive (64T64R) 5G Massive MIMO configuration. To ensure good vertical coverage, the AIR 6488 supports 30- degree, wide-angle, vertical beam forming, making it ideal for providing good coverage of the tallest buildings found within SK Telecom’s dense urban environments.
Coverage and capacity for urban areas
To secure good coverage and capacity within urban and suburban areas, SK Telecom is utilizing the Ericsson AIR 3239, a 5G Massive MIMO antenna-integrated configuration with 32 TRX. A radio product’s size and weight are factors that impact the ease of installation and the cost of operating power. The need for more power increases proportionately with the number of radios and transmitters incorporated within an antenna-integrated radio design. The AIR 3239 is more compact in size making it easier to transport, with better use of equipment space, making it ideal for providing coverage and capacity in some dense urban and urban areas. By reducing the number of TRXs, the AIR 3239 reduces power related operating costs by 45% and has quicker time to market by adding smaller AAS at site.
Extending 5G coverage
To ensure subscribers have access to good 5G coverage while traveling on public transportation systems, small, lighter-weight radio products are also required to provide coverage provide coverage at the area with less capacity need. To meet these requirements, SK Telecom has been utilizing the Ericsson Radio 4422, a 5G radio unit with 4TRX and a passive antenna design. It provides the best time to market and minimize the impact of site rental by either adding a smallest antenna or remaining single antenna configuration. The Radio 4422 reduces power related operating costs by 63% as compared to the AIR 6488.
SK Telecom is the largest mobile operator in Korea with nearly 50 percent of the market share. As the pioneer of all generations of mobile networks, the company has commercialized the fifth generation (5G) network on December 1, 2018 and announced the first 5G smartphone subscribers on April 3, 2019. With its world’s best 5G, SK Telecom is set to realize the Age of Hyper-Innovation by transforming the way customers work, live and play.
Building on its strength in mobile services, the company is also creating unprecedented value in diverse ICT-related markets including media, security and commerce.