Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sharing core 5G infrastructure: the Korea experience

An article in the Korea Joongang Daily today sheds light on some key issues involved in building 5G network infrastructure here in South Korea, which promises to have the world's first nationwide 5G mobile network. The article begins by noting that "Telephone poles, cable ducts and fiber optic networks - they’re the greatest assets for telecom companies vying to commercialize the next generation of wireless networking known as 5G, and carriers will fight to the death to hold onto them. The network, which promises higher speeds of up to 20 times existing LTE, has to be delivered on frequency bands with shorter waves, and to do that, mobile carriers say they have to build base stations closer together. This has caused tension between KT and other telecom companies because the former owns more than 70 percent of the cables on which base stations have to be built, but it has been reluctant to share."  The accompanying graphic (click for a full size version) provides details on the current ownership of core telecommunications infrastructure.
The government's deadline for setting up a nationwide 5G network is March 2019. Meeting that deadline will require agreement among the major telecommunication companies on how to share the fiber networks, underground cable ducts and above ground utility poles that form the core infrastructure for 5G. KT owns a majority of existing infrastructure in Korea by virtue of its former status as a public corporation owned by the government.
According to the article, "For now, the government has proposed three guidelines on how to share the infrastructure. First, each carrier should try to install its own infrastructure in regions with high data traffic. If such installation is not possible, for instance due to objection from landowners, or if a region has low data traffic, companies ought to share infrastructure. And if that’s the case, carriers should pay a reasonable price."

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