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Korean big 3, getting ready for 5G SK Telecom, KT and LG U+ (3): LG U+
January 27, 2015 | By Dr. Michelle M. Do (tech@netmanias.com)
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For the rest of the Q1 2015 issue of Korea Communication Review magazine please click here



3. 5G Strategies by LG U+ 

LG U+, acknowledging service as a more important factor in 5G than speed, is putting more efforts into developing differentiated services than mere technologies competition. That is, it is taking a stance that it would develop 5G services first, and then take care of technical matters later.

LG U+, the No. 3 mobile operator in Korea, had skipped a generation (3G) and leaped from 2G (CDMA) to 4G (LTE) when it first launched 4G. So, for LTE subscribers, the LTE network was the only channel that it had to provide voice service through. The company, more eager than any of its competitors to have an LTE network, built the world's first nationwide LTE network.


It has vigorously attempted to develop differentiated services (mostly video services), and introduced an unlimited LTE plan for the first time in Korea. As users' life style changed from voice-orientated to video-orientated, LG U+ could get the LTE service rolling. More and more of 2G/3G frequencies are now being switched to LTE's. And this puts the company, with relatively less frequency than its competitors, at a disadvantage in speed competition where it should be more dependent on bandwidth. So it would be difficult for the company to optimize the LTE network AND develop 5G technologies all at the same time.


LG U+ expects there will be some factors that would affect users’ life style in 5G just like there were in LTE. As the technological details of 5G have not been clarified yet, the company seems to plan to focus on development of new services for a while, and then to work on 5G technologies once clarified.


5G Trend: from provider-centric to customer-centric
LG U+ knew services would be switched from provider-centric to customer-centric in 5G era. So, it argued that, for customer analysis, i) all services should be provided through a unified platform, ii) IP-based infrastructure should be more intelligent, and iii) contents should be also intelligent so that what users want is precisely diagnosed, and socially shared with others.  


Changing Factors in 5G Era and 5G Requirements
LG U+ identified changing factors in 4G era - speed improvement to 100 Mbps, soaring data usage (unlimited data plans), and switching from voice communication to video communication -, and predicted the factors in 5G era would be massive connectivity due to drastic increase in devices, and processing complexity for more-intelligent service.

In response to these changes, LG U+ defined 5G requirements as Table 6. 



5G Framework 
LG U+’s 5G framework is customer-centric. LG U+ saw safety improvement, cost saving, time management, and emotional care, rather than high-quality communication such as high speed/low latency, as the values that 5G can provide to customers. LG U+ regards 5G infrastructure not only as transport network but also as enabler. 5G infrastructure and contents identify a customer's personalized values through analyzing the usage patterns of the customer, and provide a feedback in real time. The quality of such personal assistant service lies on the accuracy of the big data analysis.




The Korean big 3 have their own advantages in the coming 5G era. SK Telecom is the No. 1 mobile network operator and thus is at an advantage in radio access technology. KT, the No. 1 wired network operator, is at an advantage in building a wired and wireless integrated network. LG U+ has the strengths in that it has been most aggressive in developing differentiated services/plans as the last player who joined the race.


Through this presentation/demonstration, we have looked into the big 3's strategies on 5G. We learned SK Telecom is focusing on taking a lead in 5G technologies capable of giga mobile speed while the other two are focusing more on services than technologies. KT, based on its wired and wireless integrated networks, is making efforts in developing IoT-based convergence services. LG U+, on the other hand, is paying more attention to development of personalized customer-centric services that would make each user special.


SK Telecom has presented both evolution and revolution paths by achieving higher LTE performance and demonstrating giga-class mobile speed based on new radio access technologies, apparently taking one step closer to 5G technology development.


KT, having a more competitive advantage in wired infrastructure than in wireless infrastructure, is taking a cautious stance. Instead of rushing in to join the giga mobile race, it plans to launch a nationwide giga 'wired' network first, and try to provide giga mobile through LTE evolution and combination of LTE and GiGA WiFi until 5G is commercialized. 

LG U+ is exerting itself to develop new services rather than to compete in 5G technologies. Especially, a newly introduced concept of personalized emotional care service shows the company's endeavor to provide customer-friendly services.


With respect to 5G technologies, the big 3 have emphasized the followings:

  • Giga-class speed: Available to users anywhere anytime.
  • Massive connectivity: Not only user devices, but also all things are connected for communication (IoT)
  • Big data analysis: Intelligent network capable of processing data
  • New services: New media services based on giga-class speed and IoT service based on massive connectivity 

5G technologies require high-frequency bands for ultra-high capacity/speed. But the high-frequency bands alone cannot work as a nationwide network because of coverage limitation. Also, the existing mobile communication architecture (radio frame or network) is not capable of efficiently handling massive connections.


Given that, we can conclude i) new radio access technologies need to be defined for high-frequency band communication, ii) cooperation with the existing cellular band is required to support mobility, and iii) new network architecture should be introduced for communication between things/devices (i.e. IoT and D2D communication).

Korea is expected to demonstrate 5G technology/service during Pyeongchang Winter Olympic in 2018, and aims to commercialize 5G for the first time in the world in 2020. We hope Korea can position itself as a clear market leader in communication through successful launch of 5G. 



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[HFR Private 5G: my5G]


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