KT’s millimeter wave 5G network transmitted 3,800 TB of data during Winter Olympics

BARCELONA, Spain—KT, Intel and other top telecom companies offered a brief look at the results from what is likely the world’s largest and most visible test of 5G network technology to date: a commercial 5G network running in Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics, which drew to a close Sunday.

Specifically, the companies said the system—comprising 22 5G links at 10 different sites—delivered 3,800 terabytes of data during the two-week event.

“It’s one of the most broad-scale test beds you can have,” explained Intel’s Aicha Evans during a company media event held in conjunction with the Mobile World Congress trade show. “We learned a lot.”

Intel, alongside partners KT and Toyota, decided to install a commercial 5G test network in Korea for the Olympics in June of last year—giving the companies only months to create a fully functioning system. As Hong-Beom Jeon, EVP of Korea Telecom, explained during Intel’s media event, KT built a prestandard 5G network running in 28 GHz with vendors including Samsung and Ericsson for the Winter Olympics. He said the company used only line-of-site connections for communications in the millimeter-wave spectrum.

Importantly, Jeon said that KT recorded peak speeds of up to 3.5 Gbps on a 5G Samsung tablet using the network.

Intel, KT and the other companies involved in the test effort built four main use cases to show off the technology, including a system that used hundreds of cameras to capture ice-skating athletes, footage that was then broadcast in real time to virtual reality viewers. Viewers could use the setup to select different locations from which to view the action and could also pause and replay specific parts of the performance. Other test cases used connected Toyota automobiles and transmitted high-resolution pictures of cross-country skiers.

But perhaps the most visible use of 5G technology during this year’s winter Olympics involved a fleet of 300 drones flying in formation during the event’s opening and closing ceremonies.


KT’s 5G system for the Olympics relied in part on Intel’s FlexRAN and Mobile Edge Computing technology to bring the computing capabilities closer to the actual venue, coupled with Intel’s virtualized, cloud computing functions via pooled data center resources. The system “brings unlimited computing power to the network’s edge,” explained Intel’s Sandra Rivera, the company’s SVP and GM for its network platforms group.

For its part, KT said that the test paves the way for the operator to launch commercial 5G services, based on the 3GPP’s recently ratified 5G standard, in the country by the first quarter of next year.

Intel also used its press event here to outline the 5G services it plans to demonstrate during the summer Olympics in 2020 with partner Docomo. As Intel’s Evans outlined in a post on the company’s site, the company plans to demonstrate 360-degree, 8K-video streams, smart city services that support applications such as “pervasive” facial recognition, and smart eHealth equipment that leverages technologies including artificial intelligence that can be used by the athletes for training.

Those offerings for the summer Olympics will be more than just a 5G test, though. Docomo said it plans to launch a commercial 5G network in Japan in time for the summer Olympics in 2020. The operator’s CTO Hiroshi Nakamura said that Docomo is working with 600 different partners on the launch of its 5G network and its various services for the Olympics. “Operators cannot do it alone,” he said.