5G technologies and current 4G LTE networks can look to 4.9G, LTE enhancements, and other solutions to figuratively bridge the gap and bring extra value to network users, but Samsung and SK Telecom have run a successful test of the first network build ever to bridge that gap literally, by allowing total interoperability between 4G LTE and 5G networking. The test took place in Seoul, South Korea, in the area around SK Telecom's headquarters in the Eulji-ro region. The test entailed high-definition virtual reality content being beamed back and forth between the headquarters and a car traveling in the area, with a virtual core sitting between the network and the interoperable test device serving as the go-between.
Despite heavy traffic and clusters of office buildings in the urban sprawl around SK Telecom's headquarters, the test went off without a hitch, and the content traffic was seen clearly transitioning between LTE and 5G connections, all without the users noticing any issues. This was accomplished using extremely high radio frequencies, allowing for fast data transfer and switching. Specifically, the 4G LTE network was in the 2.6GHz range, while the 5G connection used bands in the 3.5GHz and 28GHz ranges. This setup is rather reminiscent of the fixed wireless and small cell solutions that most carriers are turning to in planning their 5G deployments, which makes the testing heavily indicative of real-world results, aside from the fact that there would be more network traffic on the bands in question as more users get on the LTE and 5G networks. The extra throughput could slow data speeds and introduce a bit of latency, but those issues should be minimized by the virtue of the extremely high frequencies being used.
According to both Samsung Electronics and SK Telecom, the success seen here means that the two companies should move forward with this buildout model and similar techniques as they work together to deploy 5G across South Korea. The setup makes heavy use of software-defined networking to allow precise targeting in radio wave cross-communication, along with network slicing to optimize speed and efficiency, and multi-Radio Access Technology to allow for the building of a diverse network featuring full interoperability across all 4G LTE and 5G frequencies.