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SK Telecom Debuts LTE-Advanced

Ray Le Maistre
6/26/2013

SK Telecom has launched what it claims is the world's first smartphone-supported commercial LTE-Advanced service, with the Samsung Corp. Galaxy S4 LTE-A offered as the end user device.

The operator, which is offering the service at regular 4G tariffs, has turned on its LTE-Advanced offer in the South Korean capital of Seoul as well as 42 cities in the Gyeonggi-do and Chungcheong-do provinces and 103 university areas. The launch has come a few months ahead of the original schedule. (See SK Telecom, 4G Trailblazer.)

It aims to have the service available in 84 cities eventually and to be offering seven compatible smartphones by the end of this year.

SK Telecom says LTE-Advanced can offer downlink speeds of up to 150 Mbit/s, twice as fast as regular LTE services, which the operator has been offering since late 2011. Such data speeds are enabled by "advanced network technologies" such as Carrier Aggregation and Coordinated Multi Point (CoMP), states the operator, which says it will introduce Enhanced Inter-Cell Interference Coordination (eICIC) capabilities during 2014. (See Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually).)

The operator says Carrier Aggregation currently enables it to combine two 10MHz channels to form an effective bandwidth of 20MHz, but that it expects to be able to accelerate downlink speeds to 300 Mbit/s by 2015 by aggregating two 20MHz channels and enable uplink aggregation by 2016.

With LTE-Advanced services now available, SK Telecom plans to launch a group calling service on Thursday (June 27) that offers "12 times better video quality and 2 times clearer audio quality" than its existing 3G multi-user videoconferencing service.

In addition, it is adding a high-definition streaming version of its IP-based mobile video service, Btv mobile: HD streaming requires a guaranteed minimum connection of 2 Mbit/s, according to the operator.

A number of other major operators are working towards LTE-Advanced service launches in Japan, Europe and the U.S., but SK Telecom has been determined to beat them, noting in its launch press release that it "fiercely competed with mobile carriers of other advanced nations to achieve the world's first LTE-A commercialization." (See T-Mobile to Debut LTE-A 'Features' in 2013, Carriers Are a Mixed Bag on LTE-Advanced and Telekom Austria Tests LTE-Advanced.) — Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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