SK Telecom achieves multivendor interoperability for 5G NSA

SK Telecom of Korea struck a blow for the vital operator goal of multivendor interoperability, announcing successful tests of a 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) Core, developed by Samsung, with 5G base stations from Nokia and Ericsson.

The test took place at the company’s 5G testbed, in its Bundang offices. The MNO is in the vanguard of industry efforts to ensure there are fewer vendor lock-ins in the 5G era. It has worked with other operators, such as Orange and AT&T, to develop standard interfaces within 3GPP and NGMN processes. It is also engaged with some of the newer open initiatives, such as Telecom Infra Project, which are seeking to define uniform interfaces to allow any vendors’ gear to interoperate.

The hope is that such efforts will drive more price competition, and enable MNOs to swap equipment in and out, or mix virtual and physical systems from different vendors, to achieve best-of-breed networks at affordable cost.

SK Telecom recently selecting Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia as its preferred bidders for 5G equipment tenders, and since then has stepped up its efforts to apply and test the standard interfaces to ensure it can support multivendor interoperability from the start of its aggressive 5G roll-out timeframe.

The 5G NSA Core used for the trial was co-developed by SK Telecom and Samsung. The NSA standards – the first wave to be finalized – help to accelerate 5G deployment by enabling a 5G RAN to be implemented with an existing 4G evolved packet core. Some 5G features can then be added to that LTE core (turning it into a 5G NSA Core), the idea being to improve quality of service and add some functionality before the operator needs to make the far bigger and more disruptive investment in a fully 5G core.

“SK Telecom continues to lead the industry in 5G by successfully achieving multivendor equipment interoperability based on 3GPP standard,” said Park Jin-hyo, head of the operator’s ICT R&D Center. “We will continue to make efforts to launch commercial 5G network that offers the highest quality and stability.”