South Korea Telecom launches 5G-powered VR service

SK Telecom launched a new virtual reality (VR) service powered by fifth-generation (5G) network technologies, which will enable users around the world to meet in the virtual space and enjoy various activities together.

During a news conference held in Seoul, the nation’s top mobile carrier announced the launch of the Virtual Social World service, saying it has joined hands with global ICT and content companies including Facebook, Kakao and Nexon to expand the VR ecosystem.

In partnership with Facebook, SK Telecom also launched Oculus’ standalone VR headset, Oculus Go. Oculus is a VR technology subsidiary of Facebook. This will enable Korean users, who had to rely on overseas delivery to purchase the device, to easily buy it at SK Telecom’s online and offline stores.

According to market researcher IDC, the VR area is expected to expand its market rapidly, with the supply expected to increase to 100 million devices in 2023 from the 8 million this year.

Being aware of the growth potential, SK Telecom began developing the Virtual Social World service five years ago, and has secured 92 patents including those concerning telepresence technologies that invite multiple users into the virtual space.

Through the new service, the telecom company is aiming to increase the number of its VR service subscribers to 1 million a month by the end of next year from the current 100,000.

The company noted it will add various languages to the service in the first half of next year so domestic and foreign users can meet in a virtual space.

Users who do not have VR devices will also be able to get access to the service with their smartphones in the first half of next year.

“We have partnered with domestic and foreign platform and content companies to enter the VR market,” said Jeon Jin-soo who heads the 5GX service business unit at SK Telecom. “We will offer super immersive experiences to users by expanding the virtual space quickly.”

The company said the ultimate goal of the Virtual Social World service is to allow anyone to do anything in the VR space, as in Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One.”