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Telecom Sector sees new heights 5G to be setup in North Korea

North Korea possesses an underdeveloped yet growing market which has markedly improved in recent years as noted by growing mobile penetration. North Korea’s telecoms infrastructure developed largely through foreign investment, most significantly by Thai investors and more recently, Egyptian telecoms investment company Orascom Telecom Holdings.

Communications with the outside world is restricted as everyday citizens are only able to receive news through government controlled channels such as TV and radio broadcasting as well as the government controlled Intranet. Technological improvements are evident, most notably through the introduction of high definition TV (HDTV) digital broadcasting in 2015.

North Korea has taken steps towards developing a digital economy as part of efforts to modernize its economy as well as a means to generate export income, especially in the field of IT services. Specific initiatives include domestic production of computers, mobile phones and a Linux operating system. E-education initiatives have been launched to improve access to learning while e-commerce sites have launched to improve convenience in ordering products and services.

North Korea’s mobile market is a major driver of telecoms infrastructure development. A 3G only network has been deployed providing almost universal population coverage, one of few countries in the world that is able to claim that its entire mobile market is comprised of 3G subscribers. However, Orascom, the majority owner of North Korean mobile operator Koryolink, revealed in late-2015 it had effectively lost control of its North Korean operations.

South Korea’s largest cellco by subscribers SK Telecom (SKT) has that, in partnership with Samsung Electronics, it has successfully tested its 5G system at 28GHz in an outdoor environment. SKT has confirmed that it actually built the millimetre wave 5G system with Samsung Electronics in late August 2015, with field tests using outdoor 5G base stations and a vehicle equipped with a 5G test handset having been conducted since October 2015; these tests have focused on measuring and analyzing service quality in the field — i.e. service coverage, transmission speed, latency and radio wave/signal strength. Now, SKT has claimed that the results from the trials will be ‘an important asset for building an enhanced 5G system, including its 5G pilot networks to be built within the end of this year’. Meanwhile, with SKT noting that it actually began developing 5G specifications last year to build 5G trial services, it claims to have completed its development in March 2016. Looking ahead, the operator said it plans to discuss specifications for 5G trial services at the 5G Open Trial Specification Alliance.

Outlining some of the technical details of the trials, SKT revealed that 5G Millimetre Wave technologies applied to the test include transmitter, receiver and antenna technologies designed to effectively transmit radio signals in the 28GHz band, as well as 3D beamforming, the latter of which compensates radio propagation path loss in the higher frequency bands caused by the short wavelengths of millimetre waves and high atmospheric attenuation.
Building on its extensive experience and capabilities acquired over the last three decades in the field of mobile telecommunications, SK Telecom is set to maintain its leadership in the 5G era by leading the development of 5G technologies and services. And with the successful field test of a 28GHz millimetre wave 5G system, SK Telecom moves one important step closer to achieving the world’s first commercialisation of 5G.

Key developments:

– SK Telecoms completes 5G field trial on April 2016.
– 3G subscribers continue to grow at a steady pace;
– North Korea launches HDTV broadcasts;
– E-commerce and e-education initiatives have been launched;
– OTMT loses control of Koryolink.

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