SK Telecom and Verizon create yet another 5G partnership

Not content with the 5G partnership they established earlier this year, Korean operator SK Telecom and US operator Verizon have decided to create another for good measure.

There’s nothing the telecoms industry likes more than a nice partnership in the run up to the eagerly anticipated 5G standard, with MWC earlier this year dominated by 5G high-fives. Indeed SK Telecom and Verizon were right in the thick of it, conspiring with NTT Docomo and KT to form the 5G Open Trial Specification Alliance, with the stated aim of developing a ‘trial’ 5G specification.

Today’s announcement talks of ‘technical collaboration’, although it’s unclear how that differs from the techie talk that was presumably required to develop their trial spec. The omission of NTT and KT implies this is a partnership within a partnership and there was also a renewed commitment to the OCP and M-CORD collaborations.

Of course no partnership can be considered official until there is an MoU signing ceremony and the two operators were careful not to overlook this step. The ceremony took place at SK Telecom’s HQ and featured the signatures of Alex Jinsung Choi, CTO of SK Telecom, and Roger Gurnani, Chief Information and Technology Architect of Verizon.

“This MoU will further strengthen and deepen our collaboration with Verizon,” said Choi. “Through joint studies and researches, SK Telecom and Verizon will develop 5G technical specifications and innovative use cases to move up the commercialization of/usher in the new era of/lead the era of 5G.”

“Verizon continues to collaborate with SK Telecom to develop 5G technologies,” said Gurnani. “The signing of this MoU reflects our combined effort to advance the 5G ecosystem and drive technical development towards global commercialization of 5G technologies.”

While it’s great that 5G has appealed to the telecoms industry’s communal instincts, right now there are a bunch of distinct partnerships all working towards their own ‘pre-standards’. At some stage these will all need to be brought together and some will miss out, which will test this new-found spirit of togetherness.

As Choi’s wonderfully hedged quote indicates, telcos are looking to spread their risk ahead of the standard to avoid becoming marginalised if none of their technology makes it into the final standard. One way of doing this is to join as many R&D partnerships as possible, even if you already have one.

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