South Korea telecoms look to 5G, VR, AR to boost contactless biz

The three big local mobile carriers are actively trying to turn the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic into an opportunity to leverage their capabilities in emerging technologies such as the fifth-generation (5G) network, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

As there has been growing demand for contactless services amid virus fears, SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus are scrambling to launch these tech-based services targeting not only their subscribers but also business-to-business clients.

SK Telecom, the top mobile carrier here, recently opened Jump Studio, a studio dedicated to creating mixed reality (MR) content. MR is a technology that combines aspects of both AR and VR technologies. Viewers wearing an MR headset can experience 360-degree views of MR content.

To give a reference to its future customers, the mobile carrier developed MR content in conjunction with local entertainment agency SM Entertainment. The MR content shows a performance by SM Entertainment boy band Super Junior.

The company created the performance content utilizing 106 cameras in a studio. It explained the MR technology will be used to create diverse content such as concert performances, films and dramas.

KT, the No.2 carrier here, is offering virtual tours of 5G Open Lab and Future On, which are the company’s exhibition halls showcasing 5G network technology. The company, which commercialized 5G in 2019, also opened exhibition halls at its R&D center in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul.

The exhibition halls enjoyed soaring popularity among officials working at telecommunications companies across the world. Last year alone, those showcase centers saw more than 3,500 visitors including Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, the world’s leading customer relationship management system provider.

The company launched the virtual tour services for B2B customers who are unable to visit Korea due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LG Uplus, which has been concentrating on developing 5G-based content, will launch AR wearable glasses in Korea in the third quarter of this year.

Teaming up with Chinese startup Nreal, the company will release the Nreal Light AR headset, enabling customers to enjoy entertainment content.

The mobile carrier is also dedicated to developing non-face-to-face services. It said Tuesday it will open an unmanned store here in October to meet the growing demand for contactless services.

At the contactless store, which will be located in central Seoul, customers will be able to search for and purchase the smart devices they want to use and change cellphone plans through digital kiosks.

After completing a trial run, LG Uplus plans to add more kiosks at its stores across the nation. “Analyzing the purchasing patterns of customers visiting the unmanned store, we plan to install the kiosks at our stores,” a company official said.