South Korean operator SK Telecom has thrown its hat into the ring with the 5G Open Innovation Lab and is apparently the first Asian partner to do so, as the group looks to drum up some 5G and edge use cases.

Alongside SK Telecom and analyst Deloitte, US roofing and waterproofing manufacturer GAF has also joined the ranks of the 5G Innovation Lab, which doesn’t seem like an obvious fit but the firm explains: “In the next 5 years, approximately $1.3 trillion will be spent on connectivity networks worldwide and $300+ billion in the U.S,” said Nihar Shah, Director and GM of Innovation, GAF. “The opportunity for GAF is to advance the future of connectivity with aerial real estate in the domains we know well: roofing products, roof owners, and roofing contractors.”

The group has some big hitters within in ranks already, including Accenture, Amdocs, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, T-Mobile, VMware, Ericsson, Nokia, and Palo Alto Networks.

SK Telecom has been keen to position itself as an innovative thinker with regards to the potential future use cases of 5G, in particular with the metaverse so it makes sense it would want to get involved with a brain trust looking to work out some new applications for 5G and edge. “We are excited to join the 5G Open Innovation Lab, which is playing a vital role in building a worldwide 5G ecosystem,” said Ha Min-yong, Chief Development Officer of SK Telecom. “By fully leveraging our experience in nurturing startups, we will work closely with promising startups from across the globe to create new business opportunities and take the 5G ecosystem to the next level.”

As mentioned above 16 start ups also join the project bringing the total number of those collaborating up to 87. The new batch specialises in a range of areas such as enterprise solutions in digital transformation, network security, smart manufacturing, IoT and wireless connectivity, network and data analytics, social robotics, private LTE/5G networks, and augmented reality.

Analyst Deloitte explains its interest in the project by saying: “With the rollout of Edge AI chips and advanced networking sensor-generated data from products, pallets and machines growing at a rapid pace, sensor-generated data needs to be stored, processed, analysed, and acted upon close to or at the edge of networks,” said Ashish Verma, Chief Growth and Innovation Officer, US Strategy and Analytics, and principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “The ecosystem enabled by the 5G Open Innovation Lab will be a key component of our future growth strategy in innovating new services and platforms.”

The 5G Open Innovation Lab’s turned up in 2020, and we’re told participating startups and alumni have raised $1.154 billion with several exits valued at over $200 million.  The idea is that corporate partners work directly with the flow of startups coming through the organisation to accelerate the process of bringing high faulting concepts towards something that might be able to be sold.

There are a few of these types of 5G focussed innovation hubs doing the rounds, and other platforms that seek to showcase successful applications. Both have the same motivating factor in that they’d like to be able to point to something truly disruptive provided by 5G, which we were told for years would be in some way shape or form revolutionary to all manor of industry and life. The killer use case they are all looking for doesn’t appear to be here yet, and seems unlikely to emerge until we get large scale 5G SA. But who knows, perhaps one of these startups is working on the golden goose right now.

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