South Korean Telco: 5G Has Been a Failure

South Korean telco SK Telecom has weighed in on the status of 5G, saying the next-gen wireless standard has largely been a failure....
South Korean Telco: 5G Has Been a Failure
Written by Matt Milano
  • South Korean telco SK Telecom has weighed in on the status of 5G, saying the next-gen wireless standard has largely been a failure.

    5G was touted as the biggest evolutionary leap in wireless technology, offering speeds and latency similar to or exceeding traditional broadband. A couple of years into the transition, however, most people have yet to experience the touted benefits and are decidedly underwhelmed.

    Interestingly, South Korea is consistently ranked as one of the best countries in the world for wireless and internet service, making such a harsh assessment from SK Telecom all the more telling.

    According to The Register, the telco made its case in a white paper on the subject, the “SK Telecom 6G White Paper — 5G Lessons Learned, 6G Key Requirements, 6G Network Evolution, and 6G Spectrum.”

    SK Telecom argues that promises and expectations have not aligned, with the technology still falling short of delivering many of the benefits proponents believed it would unlock, such as fully autonomous vehicles, remote surgery, XR, holograms, and more.

    Even at the time when preparing for 5G, services such as autonomous driving, UAM, XR, hologram, and digital twin had appeared and expected, but most of them did not live up to expectations. We should have taken a more objective perspective. For example, whether 5G technology alone could change the future, or whether the overall environment constituting the service was prepared together. If so, the gap between the public’s expectations for 5G and the reality would not have been large.

    SK Telecom and other telcos also experienced setbacks as a result of the 5G characteristics, such as its limited ranged compared to 4G.

    Moreover, the difference in technology perception was further revealed in the initial stage of 5G commercialization. Early commercialization was promoted for 5G, however, 5G required more base station compared to LTE to build a nationwide network due to its frequency characteristics, requiring more efforts in terms of cost and time. SK Telecom has made significant efforts to expedite 5G nationwide rollout, but customers wanted the same level of coverage as LTE in a brief period.

    SK Telecom does acknowledge that 5G has brought many positives, including a much lower cost per GB of data than previous wireless generations. In addition, many of the benefits 5G was supposed to bring will eventually happen.

    As a result, SK Telecom believes the narrative and expectations surrounding 6G need to be communicated much more clearly so consumers know exactly what they should expect.

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