KT kick-starts race to 5G finish line

South Korean telco KT has announced it will complete the construction of a 5G network by September 2017 to prepare for a pilot service at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

KT has made no secret of its intentions to exhibit the technology at the Winter Olympics, which will be taking place in PyeongChang during February 2018, though it might be considered a worrying sign for the rest of the industry. One of the supposed lessons learned from the implementation of 3G and 4G technologies was the need for the industry to ‘cross the finish line’ together under the banner of international standardization, to avoid fragmentation of the technology.

According to Yonhap News, the KT team will launch the network capable of 5G services during the Olympics, as well as in its neighbouring regions and parts of Seoul to act as a test-bed ahead of a wider roll-out.

While the majority of the industry has been playing nice, it will be interesting to see whether this false start from KT will shock the rest into a sprint finish. Only last week, Heavy Reading Gabriel Brown indicated there was a small risk of 5G fragmentation due to lead which KT and Verizon had developed over the chasing back in terms of technology development. Brown was not too worried about the risk of fragmentation, though this news may worry standardization advocates in the industry.

KT is aiming to commercialize 5G services during 2019, 12 months ahead of industry consensus, though it is likely it will push the standards developed for the Olympics onto the international community. KT is currently leading the 5G Special Interest Group (SIG) which it believes will become the major standards for 3GPP’s international standards moving forward.

It might be considered a strong arm move, but it is unlikely many will be surprised the telco community was not able to maintain the happy family image all the way through to 2020. How the industry reacts to the trial will possible go some way in defining the levels of fragmentation we’ll see in the development and roll-out of 5G.

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