SRG conducted a benchmark study of the SK Telecom (SKT) 5G NR network in Seoul, South Korea. This report is critical to any organization wanting to understand the current capabilities of 5G NR operating in FR1 (sub 7.125 GHz) as well as its longer term prospects.

Highlights of the Report include the following:

Our Thanks.  We did this study in collaboration with Accuver Americas / Innowireless and Spirent Communications who provided us with their respective test equipment, which we identify in the report. SRG did all the testing and analysis of the data and we are solely responsible for the commentary in the report.

Our Methodology.  We captured chipset diagnostic messages from two smartphones – the LG V50 (5G NR) smartphone and the LG LM-G820N (LTE) smartphone – both phones used Qualcomm modem(s). In total, we transferred more than 2.3 TB of data, using a combination of drive tests and pedestrian tests, downlink and uplink data transfers, and TCP/UDP protocols.

Several Firsts.  This study marked the first time that we observed concurrent data transfers over 5G NR (100 MHz TDD) and LTE (75 MHz LTE with 5CCA), uplink data transfers over 5G NR, mobility management, and FR1.

The Results.  We analyzed a host of metrics to evaluate network performance, spectral efficiency, and the impact on the user experience. Thanks to the combined use of LTE and 5G NR radio bearers, the V50 easily outperformed its LTE brethren (high double digits to low/mid triple digits on a percentage basis in all downlink tests. We also separated the analysis by radio bearer and took into consideration RB allocations to adjust for network loading and to calculate implied spectral efficiency. The results from uplink tests tended to favor LTE, even without the use of uplink carrier aggregation with LTE.

Opportunities Abound.  Network optimization, an increase in the concurrent use of 5G NR and LTE, the introduction of digital beam forming with multiple beam indices, and a reduction in RLF, due in part to thermal issues with the smartphone, will meaningfully improve results. We observed the need for existing R15 features not present in the initial 5G NR smartphones and forthcoming functionality in Release 16 which will also improve the strong initial performance that we observed.