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SK Telecom Signs 6G MoUs With Ericsson, Nokia, And Samsung

Commercial 5G services are only just getting off the ground, but SK Telecom is already teaming up with vendors to push ahead with the “evolution to 6G” — or the next 10-year cycle for mobile technology developments.

South Korea’s SK Telecom, which was among the first mobile operators to launch 5G services alongside its domestic peers KT and LG Uplus, said it has signed agreements with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung Electronics for joint research and development in advanced 5G and 6G mobile network technologies.

SK Telecom will work closely with each of the three vendors to “jointly promote development and commercialization of advanced 5G technologies,” including ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC); enhanced multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antenna technology; differentiated 28 GHz technology; and standalone 5G New Radio standalone (5G NR) networks.

Ericsson just announced the commercial availability of standalone 5G NR software that gives network operators the ability to deploy a pure 5G network on Ericsson equipment.

The South Korean operator said it will conduct joint 6G R&D activities with the three network equipment providers. “Through close consultations, they will draft technical requirements and new business models for 6G,” SK Telecom said.

SK Telecom CTO Park Jin-hyo claimed that the “strengthened cooperation” with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung will enable it to “lead the way toward 6G mobile network communications.”


As things stand today it’s not entirely clear what 6G will actually involve. The jury is still out on the ramifications of 5G technology and the new use cases it is expected to enable that are currently not possible with 4G LTE technologies.

It’s difficult not to think back to the much-quoted words of Andy Sutton, principal network architect at EE’s parent company BT, who said 2014 that “if we get 5G right, there may not be a 6G.” EE was the first U.K. operator to launch 5G services.

Other experts such as Mike Short, former vice president of public affairs at Telefónica and now chief scientific adviser at the Department for International Trade (DIT) in the U.K, also opined at the time that 5G was not merely a discussion about what the next radio interface should be, but should address what the digital economy would look like in 2020.

Some insights into what 6G might bring came from Peter Vetter, head of the access research at Nokia Bell Labs, who during the recent 6G Wireless Summit said he sees 6G as “a network with a sixth sense. It will be a network not only enabling connectivity but the infrastructure will be used as a sensor that will infer state and meaning to augment humans and machines. Understanding what is happening in a room, for instance, opens up new applications for things like energy management or health monitoring.”

It all sounds a bit sci-fi, but Vetter was keen to point out that this is not going to happen any time soon. “6G is still 10 years and longer out, and I think that this is a consensus among the 6G Summit participants. However, it is time to start the research right now because it takes 10 to 20 years before a new innovation sees a commercial launch,” he said.―SDX Central

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