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SK Telecom thinks 5G is worth repeating

Korean operator SK Telecom has developed a technology that promises to amplify 5G radio signals.

It’s called the 5G repeater and is designed to eliminate ‘shadow areas’, which seem to mean improving coverage. The emphasis seems to be as much of building penetration as range, with the propagation characteristics of the high frequency spectrum expected to carry much of the 5G signal poorer than current licensed spectrum, especially sub-1 GHz.

SK considers its trial network in Gangnam – a district in the heart of Seoul that features a number of high-rise buildings as well as a massive underground station with its own flea market – to be the best place to try out such signal amplification. The combination of heavy urbanization and high population density (all using their smartphones constantly) is considered exceptionally hostile to signal propagation, so the feeling is that if a wireless technology works there it will work anywhere.

“SK Telecom is moving closer to launching a commercial 5G network by applying key 5G technologies to our 5G trial network in Gangnam, an area with the highest data traffic,” said Park Jin-hyo, Head of Network Technology R&D Center of SK Telecom.

A repeater doesn’t seem like an especially innovative piece of technology but applying it to 5G signals is, as SK says, another step towards creating viable 5G networks. Initially at least 5G will be all about improved urban capacity but if the coverage is such that most people hardly ever get a 5G signal then it will be a bit of an anticlimax.

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