By Seung-min Jeon WIRED Korea
Korea needs to start research on the next generation of mobile network technology, or 6G, in the near future, instead of being blinded by an early successful commercialization of 5G technology, says Oh Seung-mok. He warns that Korea will otherwise be left behind in a cutthroat race for new mobile network technologies.
What will happen when 6G technology is put to use? As an expert on mobile network technology, Oh believes that human-to-machine communication will be made possible. “The technology of controlling various machines by thought, or human-computer interface, will be in the limelight,” he says in an interview with WIRED Korea.
Not many are better positioned than Oh to make such comments. Oh is the chair of the 5G Forum, a key organization behind the April commercialization of 5G service in Korea, the first in the world. He has played a leading role in coordinating opinions among mobile network carriers, research institutes, universities, government agencies and other members of the forum and in making policy proposals to the government.
Under his chairmanship, the 5G Forum has maintained close relations with similar organizations in 11 foreign countries, such as the United States and China. It also represents Korea when it comes to international conferences on 5G technology and its commercialization.
Moreover, Oh got himself involved in an arduous process of doing research and development on 5G technology, starting 5G commercial service and developing killer contents based on the new technology as a top manager of Korea’s leading mobile network carrier, KT. He currently holds the post of KT’s group network president.
WIRED Korea, which has run a series of articles on technology written in commemoration of its December 12 launch, met with Oh for an interview at KT’s Gwanghwamun headquarters on December 17.
Oh said 5G is characterized by the Internet of Things, a technology that makes it possible for machines to communicate with one another on their own. He said the next generation of technology for mobile service, or 6G, will usher in an era where humans will be able to directly communicate with machines.
“The 5G era is defined as an IoT era,” said Oh. “Changes in the telecommunications market show where mobile technology developments are headed.”
In his view, 1G and 2G were for voice communications, 3G for Internet access and 4G for videos. Oh, who has been watching the Korean mobile market since the introduction of 2G technology, added 4G made it easier for humans to operate machines.
True, human-computer interface that is capable of speech recognition is currently available. But its use is severely limited. This human-computer interface technology, now in its infancy, will mature enough to be freely used when it is combined with 6G technology, he said. Here, he said, artificial intelligence will play a greater role. “A mature artificial intelligence will better understand human speech,” he said.
To those who believe they are satisfied with 4G and that 5G is more than enough, Oh said Korea needs to start research and development on 6G as soon as possible if it wants to continue to maintain a competitive edge in mobile network service.
Korea and other countries, he said, have already started preparations in this regard. The 5G Forum has set up a unit dedicated to preparatory work on 6G technology.
His call for research and development on 6G does not mean that there is not much work to do with regard to 5G service. It is necessary to develop contents serviceable on the 5G network. Such content includes an immersive telecast of baseball games or other sports competitions.
Paucity of contnets
Oh acknowledged that there is much to be desired when it comes to the quality of headsets that are used for immersive contents. He said, however, that it will not take long before they will be improved for the servicing of immersive contents ranging from games and sports to entertainment and education. He added that immersive hologram service is not far off.
Speed and latency are not the only matters of concern when it comes to 5G service for autonomous cars, smart factories, smart cities, telemedicine and many other transformative changes in industry. Security against hacking is also indispensable to the Internet of Things that is connecting machines to machines for those life-changing services. Anti-hacking technology is also required for the safe operation of drones and robots.
“There is no super technology to prevent all kinds of threats to a super connected society,” he said, adding that all devices used for an integrated service for smart factories, self-driving cars and smart cities will be all connected to the 5G networks. “We will have to make all-out efforts to enhance security at the levels of devices, networks and services,” he said.
Advanced technologies, such as blockchain algorithms and quantum cryptography, are already being tested for enhanced security, he said.
“Some businesses are selling blockchain algorithm-based identification solutions for access to devices and quantum cryptography-based solutions for network protection,” he said. “Efforts are also being made to build an integrated AI-based security platform for security against the hacking of terminals, networks and services all together.”
Not a simple network for communications
Robotics is among different branches of technology that will undoubtedly prosper on the new 5G ecosystem. Advanced technology in telecommunications is critical for the development of moving robots, which has been severely restricted on the 4G LTE platform.
“Some research institutes and universities are conducting joint research projects not just on robots but also on drones and remote healthcare,” Oh said. “The 5G network will play a critical role in carrying out the projects.”
Unlike the LTE platform, the 5G networks make it possible to transmit data at an ultra-high speed and with ultra-low latency. They also provide massive connectivity, making it possible to connect so many machines to so many other machines. With any of the previous restrictions are removed, Oh said that research “will be in full swing in many areas.”
A case in point is KT’s Skyship platform, which was developed under Oh’s supervision. It is an airship equipped with telecommunication gears and connected to KT’s 5G network. It is capable of restoring a disrupted network service or serving as a firefighting command center in a disaster area.
Those Koreans subscribing to new services on the 5G networks may regard their provision as business as usual. But Oh said they are novelties to many people in foreign countries, adding the Korean 5G networks are serving as “global testbeds” for new services. Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei, he said, are among those telecommunications giants testing their services on the Korean 5G networks.
The above is a translation of Seung-min Jeon’s Korean-language article by Nam-hyun Choi, deputy editor in chief at WIRED Korea.