In this interview ahead of the LTE World Summit, Park Jin-Hyo, SVP & Head of Network Technology at the R&D Center, SK Telecom, tells us how the Korean operator is taking a lead on virtualization and gives us a glimpse of what benefits a fully-fledged VoLTE and LTE Advanced network can bring end-users.
Do you feel any pressure for SK Telecom to be leaders in the network technology space?
With the world’s first commercialization of CDMA, multi-carrier, VoLTE, and LTE-Advanced, SK Telecom has been a pioneer in developing mobile network technologies. Rather than pressure, we feel pride for pursuing the best customer experience through providing leading and differentiated technologies.
To what extent have you virtualised your network and how important will NFV be in the future?
Our ultimate goal is to virtualize all telecommunications equipment in implementing software. However, considering the possible impact on the existing network, in 2014 we plan to start with IMS, telecommunications infrastructure to provide HD Voice, as it is based on a general-purpose hardware server and therefore easier to apply virtualization technology.
After validating performance and stability of IT virtualization, we will continue to virtualize other network equipment as well. Going beyond virtualization of core network functions, we plan to apply the technology on base stations, the access point with customer, eventually aiming to innovate the whole structure of telecommunications infrastructure.
By applying NFV technology, a MNO can efficiently cope with ever-increasing data traffic by securing flexible network structure, apply new services at an incomparably faster pace and, as hardware and software will be separated also provide more business opportunities to SMEs. As such, SK Telecom believes that NFV technology will become a key enabler in its mid-to-long term network structure innovation.
As networks round the world start to announce VoLTE plans, how has an early shift to VoLTE helped SK Telecom?
With the world first commercialization of VoLTE in August 2012, SK Telecom was able to introduce high-quality voice/video services and other diverse additional functions. Quality of voice calling significantly improved as voice-processing bandwidth expanded from 3,400Hz on the 3G network to 7,000Hz, and call connection time also decreased from five seconds to 0.2-2.5 seconds. Plus, quality of voice calla proved stable even in heavy data traffic or while on the move as HD Voice data was set as priority in processing. Additionally, other diverse additional functions such as switching between voice and video or sharing contents during phone call became available.
Do you believe that eMBMS will make an impact over the next couple of years?
Our customers consume more than 50 per cent of their data on video services including video streaming, which demonstrates a soaring need for delivering video content efficiently on LTE networks. It is believed that eMBMS can become an important technology once LTE network-based HD broadcasting prevails, but the speed of spreading the technology can differ from country to country depending on the government policy on provision of broadcasting service in the telecommunications market, the expansion of ecosystem of eMBMS equipment/devices etc. However, it is not until multiple subscribers can view the same content from a single cell that we can gauge the actual benefit of eMBMS and, therefore, customer demand and the market situation are to be closely observed as provision of broadcasting channels may cause overload on the cell.
How important has it been for you to move speedily to LTE Advanced?
LTE-Advanced enabled SK Telecom to launch services that are differentiated from the previous LTE standard. For example, SD and HD were provided for mobile IPTV on LTE network but now customers can select full HD with their LTE-Advanced devices. Also, customers can watch two different baseball games at the same time on their LTE-Advanced network. Another example is FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), mobile music streaming service without loss, while some compression loss occurred with the previous LTE network.
By building a multi-carrier (1.8GHz and 800MHz) network in 84 major cities covering 95 per cent of the country’s population prior to the launching of the LTE-Advanced network in June 2013, SK Telecom could quickly move to expand its LTE-Advanced service to major cities in Korea, setting itself apart from other competitors. Currently, SK Telecom’s LTE-Advanced network covers 85 cities and major areas of all districts and towns.
What, in your opinion, will truly define 5G?
I believe 5G should be defined in multiple dimensions including innovative change in network architecture and service as well as speed and capacity. We aim to deliver a high-speed, intelligent network, provide an enhanced user experience and an immersive service. To that end, SK Telecom is conducting R&D jointly with local/multinational manufacturers, government-funded research institutes and universities. Also, SK Telecom is the first to chair the 5G Forum, the government-led cooperative forum consisting of individuals from industry, academia and research.
What are you most looking forward to with regard to the LTE World Summit?
At LTE World Summit 2014, I wish to exchange views and know-how with other mobile network operators that have commercialized LTE or LTE-Advanced and to share information and experience on diverse LTE, LTE-Advanced network equipment of manufacturers and services. I hope to gain insight and foresight to further evolve SK Telecom’s network quality and service, and at the same time contribute to the expansion of the LTE network ecosystem with the company’s pioneering experience and know-how in the commercialisation of LTE and LTE-Advanced.
The 10th annual LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 23rd-26th June 2014, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.