KT takes the plunge on standalone 5G

South Korean operator KT has become one of the world’s first operators to move its commercial 5G network to standalone mode.

5G SA means the whole network is using 4G-specific technology, as opposed to NSA which adds a layer of 5G-ness on top of legacy infrastructure. China has been ahead of the game on 5G SA and a few other operators, such as Vodafone, are making all the right noises, but this is still early days to be taking the plunge on the whole commercial network.

Unsurprisingly KT’s tech vendor partner on this journey is Samsung, whose press release we’re reliant on for the details because KT doesn’t seem to have done an English version yet. “Samsung is proud to play a leading role in placing Korea at the forefront of network technology innovation,” said Seungil Kim, Head of the Korea bit of the Networks Business at Samsung Electronics.

“Our reliable and flexible 5G SA architecture, powered by our 5G RAN and core, will enable KT to offer its users the next generation of enhanced use cases and mobile experiences. By introducing 5G SA services in Korea, we are taking a meaningful step in 5G journey, and look forward to delivering more transformative experiences to customers and businesses with KT.”

“Our 5G SA service will be an important step in unlocking the full potential of 5G and it will bring new value to our customers,” said Youngsoo Seo, Director of the Network Research Technology Unit at KT. “As a digital platform company, KT will continue to make efforts to help drive Korea’s Digital New Deal and ensure our customers enjoy the best experiences and opportunities that 5G has to offer.”

Fair play to both of them for leading the way, but it’s far from clear what advantage this gives KT, apart from getting the inevitable out of the way. Sure, there’s the standard talk of flexibility to innovate, but specifics on these amazing new killer apps remain elusive. Indeed, KT’s competitors were quick to suggest it had ‘jumped the gun’ on 5G SA, but maybe they’re just jealous.

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