SK Telecom announced that its newly developed element of 5G network technology was adopted as a Korean national standard by the Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA). The name of the element is fronthaul, or nicknamed as the capillary of the 5G networks.
In 5G networks, a base station is separated into a central unit and a distributed unit containing antennas. Main digital controllers are nested in a central unit for processing, whereas a distributed unit is located at cell sites. This separation makes it easier to manage the quality of service and the level of maintenance as the central units are gathered in a single location. Fronthaul is the wired connection between the central units and the distributed ones.
Compared with LTE networks, 5G network requires a higher base station density with a higher capacity for data processing. These requirements emphasize the significant role of fronthaul in transmitting the radio signals received from cell sites to the central units.
What makes the newly developed specifications of fronthaul notable is its openness. In case of LTE fronthaul, major vendors have used their own specifications since there was no official standard. Such a variety has served as a barrier to entry for small- and mid-sized vendors and start-ups to the market.
With its 5G fronthaul specifications set as a national standard, the leading mobile operator’s approach to open standard is likely to add momentum to their effort to join the 5G ecosystem in Korea.
SK Telecom has promised to closely work with local small- and mid-sized vendors to develop network equipment which meet its fronthaul specifications set as the TTA standard. Also, it will seek out opportunities for further collaboration with stakeholders, both locally and internationally, to accelerate the adoption of the specifications as a 3GPP standard.
“In the world of 5G, where data transmission volume goes large along with a dramatic increase in the types of services available on the network, open standard-based fronthaul architecture is critical,” said Park Jin-hyo, Head of Network Technology R&D Center at SK Telecom. “We are committed to boosting the growth of the 5G ecosystem in collaboration with local vendors and start-ups.”