Innovator Profile: SK Telecom

Innovating the fronthaul to be 5G ready

By Seungjoo Hong,
Manager, Broadband Technology Lab,
Sk Telecom



5G is becoming a reality everywhere in the world and Korea is no exception. With advanced communications infrastructure, Korea is targeting commercialisation by March 2019. Although 5G is expected to generate business opportunities beyond traditional communications business, significant network investment is required.

Furthermore, requirements of 5G use cases also imply network densification, which aggravates the cost associated with the RAN (Radio Access Network) that already comprises 60% of the mobile network total cost of ownership. In the context of network densification, transport networks (i.e. backhaul and fronthaul) in the RAN need to be optimised to deliver high performance that 5G will require, to achieve the same capacity.

This is why SKT developed the 5G-PON solution, an innovative fronthaul architecture that reduces complexities and costs associated with fronthaul networks. This is a continued effort by SKT since its adoption of Cloud RAN in 2011, where SKT relentlessly pursued its quest for optimising the cost of the RAN.

5G-PON Solution

5G-PON is a flexible, reliable, and efficient fronthaul (transport) solution that provides a single distribution network for both cellular (4G and 5G) and high-speed fixed broadband. This solution provides an advantage over the conventional distribution networks where different types of networks are required for different technologies.

5G-PON also enables easier delivery of broader coverage for the cellular network rollout by being able to simply install base stations and antennas without having to install additional distribution/transport networks.

With the adoption of passive optical networking in the transport network, 5G-PON does not require additional power supply for installation. With this, 5G-PON can reduce the size of device/equipment when compared to traditional transport network. Whereas traditional transport network’s remote nodes would require to be located inside premises for stable power supply, 5G-PON remote nodes can be installed outside as power supply is not required.

5G-PON has potential to reduce the cost of installation by half while operations and maintenance costs can be reduced by 30 percent. The reduction is attributed to the intelligent operation and management of the passive nodes and enhanced energy efficiency of the system. 5G-PON will also enable mobile operators to offer IoT (Internet of Things) connectivity with its ability to plug and play remote nodes.

SKT will deploy 5G-PON nationwide to accommodate its commercialisation of 5G and will continue to develop 5G-PON to effectively tackle the cost challenges in realising 5G networks.


Please click here to access the SK Telecom Case Study 


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