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Hear from CTO of Korean Telcos
► 1. Dr. Dongmyun Lee, CTO of KT: Leading 5G through wired/wireless Integration
Dr. Dongmyun Lee, Executive Vice President at KT's Institute of Convergence Technology shared his stance on development of 5G communication technology to be presented during Pyeongchang Winter Olympic to be held in Korea in 2018.
First he revealed his ambitious goal of bringing the world’s first prototype of 5G, which won’t be commercialized until 2020, at the earliest. Media and Internet of Things (IoT) 5G technologies are also under development.
KT also plans to make a major investment in developing more advanced giga Internet and LTE, and a proactive investment in wired/wireless network integration technology.
What’s the No. 1 priority in the company’s investment this year?
When it comes to business, our investment priorities would be giga Internet in the wired sector, and making LTE more advanced in the wireless sector. For R&D, investment will be mostly made in LTE-A and 5G.
Usually, what comes in mind when we say 5G is just mobile network. But, we should be able to see that actually it is a lot more than that. In the coming 5G era, there will be no clear line of demarcation between wired and wireless networks. KT will evolve into an infra operator, providing integrated wired and wireless services. So, our plan is to develop new technologies that can serve such purpose.
For example, the underlying infra of 5G will be software. Even network equipment will be software-based, primarily. So, we are working on development of SW-based infra technologies now.
What’s the concept of integrated wired and wireless networks?
All wired networks have already become all-IP networks by now, and wireless networks are transforming to all-IP networks as well. Now all the key conditions required to effectively integrate them have been satisfied, and thus there is no reason to demarcate them.
In the 5G era, there will be increasing need for giga-class Internet access, wired or wireless. So, integration of the two is an excellent, unavoidable choice. If you see 5G just as wireless technology, you need to widen your view. KT sees it as a comprehensive concept that covers not only wired/wireless networks themselves, but also the services provided through them.
KT will probably be the world's first to realize 5G technologies that allow for integrated operation of wired and wireless networks.
Any 5G technology that you are currently developing?
Last month, KT successfully conducted the world’s first outdoor demonstration of Massive MIMO. This new technology allows for MORE users to be served with BETTER user experience even when using the same amount of frequency.
Also, we are working on LTE-H (HETNET), which combines LTE and Wifi. In 5G, macro and small base stations will be installed together. And this requires new technology that can efficiently control both base stations at once. Instead of carrier aggregation (CA) that combines multiple carriers, link aggregation (LA) will be applied to link different networks, achieving up to 600 Mbps – LTE (150 Mbps) and giga Wifi (450 Mbps).
For IoT, new network technologies are essential. New 5G-related developments, ranging from IoT devices, to platforms, and even to application services, are under way.
What about preparation for Pyeongchang Winter Olympic? How is it going?
We are taking it very seriously. We are trying to get everything ready, from network to application services to devices, and more. We are also working hard to develop items that can show off Korea’s unbeatable technologies and services.
The event will be a good chance to present our 5G prototype. 5G is expected to be commercialized in 2020 at the earliest. We are planning to give the world an idea of how 5G will be like in its initial stage, and to present a new 5G-based service that has been improbable before. I can’t give you further detail, but it will be something related to media and IoT.
There are some concerns about 5G. What are your thoughts about that?
When you think of 5G, if you use today’s service patterns, then of course you can be skeptical about 5G. But, 5G is a network for ‘future service’.
The first big thing in 5G is IoT. Now what’s connected to networks are smartphones and PCs, at the most. So, sending data once every hour should be enough. But once numerous IoT devices get connected and smarter, tremendous amount of data will be exchanged. Think of a highway full of autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars), which are often called 'smartphones on wheels'. To serve them properly, you definitely need a massive-scale network. And even more so when billions of IoT devices are connected.
The second thing in 5G is Cloud. We used to and still like to own things. But, now with Internet access getting 10 times faster, and even 100 times faster eventually, it's time to connect. There will be no need to carry or own information-related services or goods any more. We can simply connect to 5G through Cloud any time anywhere. It will be a totally different world.
What do you thing is the role of an operator in the coming 5G era?
Network equipment is supplied by its manufacturers, but it's operators who provide features that are optimized for the network. In 5G era, it will be even more so. There will be more network devices introduced, and it will be all operators' job to manage and integrate them. Besides, features that used to be hardware-based will become more software-based. To get a piece of hardware and to install a software are obviously not the same.
What's the current status and future of NFV technology development?
Features that used to be implemented by hardware only are now sufficiently supported by software installed on CPU. With drastically upgraded CPU capacity of general servers, NFV environment has been well generated.
KT has already been applying an NFV solution that it developed to its service called 'Giga Office'. This solution enables an organization to relocate its computing equipment to its operator's Central Office (CO), and connect to it through giga Internet. We are planning to launch multifarious NFV-related services this year.
One of the benefits that NFV can give is of course reduced investment burden. Costs of purchasing and operating equipment can be lowered. But the most appealing advantage is short lead times, which can be reduced from the current two months to a week. To be able to handle lots of new services introduced in 5G quick and fast, transition to SW-based network construction and operation is inevitable.
How Korean communication industry should survive?
The communication network industry and also the ICT convergence industry that lies on it are facing unavoidable drastic change. For 5G, SW-based network, IoT integration, or whatever you call, this can be a big opportunity, but also a threat. In order for Korea to take advantage of this opportunity, aggressive R&D and business plans are needed more than ever.
And that's what KT intends to do. What is coming now is not a change in technologies only, but rather one that affects the entire industry. Besides, as the life cycle of such changes, which used to be tens of years, is getting a lot shorter, more changes of such kind are expected sooner or later.
All network-based business will also experience the resulting fast transition. During this global transition, Korea should be able to remain as a leader in the network industry. And KT is willing to contribute for the continuing leadership of Korea in the industry.