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South Korea readies 5G networks for smart city applications

South Korea readies 5G networks for smart city applications
Several companies in South Korea have announced plans to launch 5G services recently; among them is Samsung, which is collaborating with the government, looking to apply next-generation telecommunication networks in self-driving cars.

Last week Samsung signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Korea Transportation Safety Authority to develop autonomous driving technologies for nationwide implementation.

The partnership will utilize 4G, 5G and vehicle-to-everything telecommunication networks in a self-driving car technology testbed called K-City. The testbed has simulated real-world road conditions to ensure the self-driving car technology becomes mature before it is rolled out on the road.

K-City spreads across 360,000 square meters and consists of simulated urban and rural areas, local communities, highways and parking lots. The smart cars will be tested in real-life road conditions, crossings and tunnels.

“The prominence of autonomous vehicles and connected cars is growing rapidly in the 5G era,” said Jaeho Jeon, Executive Vice President and Head of Global Technology Service, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. The company's technical expertise in 5G will facilitate the smart car technology's development, Jeon added.

Samsung will also build key IT infrastructures to ensure minimal latency and information security at K-City. Mobile Edge Computing near base stations is critical in supporting instant communication between fast-moving vehicles, and enables cars to react to unanticipated events.

Telecom launched 5G services

South Korea's largest telecommunication companies are also staying ahead of the 5G curve. SK Telecom, KT Corp and LG Uplus Corp just made a joint announcement to launch the world's first commercial 5G network services across the country on December 1.

At the launch ceremony, AI-equipped robot Lota became KT Corp's very first 5G service subscriber. It guided visitors through the Seoul Sky Observatory in the Lotte World Tower.

5G has been deployed in the greater Seoul metropolitan area, and is planned to expand nationwide to 24 major cities, key transport routes such as expressways, subways, high-speed railways, large universities and neighborhood shopping areas, KT Corp said.

The new 5G network will provide seamless coverage and features ultra-low latency, according to KT, which says its mesh topology and edge communication centers will enable connection to even “the most remote mountain areas and islands.”

SK Telecom, on the other hand, said it will start providing the 5G service to the manufacturing sector. The service will feature AI-backed network, high security and fast Internet speed.

LG Uplus will implement its 5G service in Seoul and surrounding areas and other major cities. The company expects to introduce 5G smartphones after March 2019.

LG Uplus has already set up 4,100 5G base stations across 11 cities including Seoul and Incheon. The company will establish more base stations and secure 5G coverage is expected to become available in March next year.

Seoul's potential

Fast and reliable network should lay the groundwork for smart cities. With 5G expected to become widely available in South Korea, many cities in the country may turn smart in the near future. Seoul is a case in point. It is well equipped with leading ICT infrastructure including 5G network.

“Seoul is the perfect model for the next smart city as it has some 10 million inhabitants, with the numbers swelling to 20 million if surrounding areas are included,” said Shin Yong-seob, a senior officer in charge of a smart city task force team at Hancom, according to a report of The Korea Herald.

Hancom is a South Korean software company which recently announced plans to use IoT and AI technologies for smart city projects. The company said it has a final goal of establishing a “smart city platform.”

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