SK Telecom Launches LTE-A Network with Phones

Korea’s SK Telecom has launched the world’s first commercial LTE-Advanced network, along with the first phone running the faster network technology, the Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE-A.

The carrier ordered an initial 20,000 units of the the Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE-A. Samsung said LG also plans to offer a LTE-A phone and Qualcomm announced competitor KT, will also carry the phone.

The Samsung S4 LTE-A phone features the new Snapdragon 800, 2.3GHz quad-core processor from Qualcomm, as well as a 2,600 mAh battery, 5.0-inch full HD screen, 13 megapixel camera, Android 4.2 and 32 GB internal storage.

SK Telecom, a provider of mobile service in South Korea, has a 50% market share. It launched the Korea’s first 4G LTE in 2011 and commercialized the Multi Carrier (MC) technology in July 2011.

The company has built a total of 20,000 RU (Radio Units) as of June 2013. Some 13 operators in 8 nations, including Verizon, AT&T, NTT Docomo and Telenor, have announced plans to launch LTE-A, and among them Sprint, Telstra, 3 Italia and Yota said that they will do so within this year. However, no carrier, besides SK Telecom, has yet launched an LTE-A network and a LTE-A phone.

The multi-carrier technology allows SK to utilize both its existing 800MHz frequency band and the 1.8GHz band. With an additional 20MHz uplink/downlink spectrum, it will be using a total of 40MHz for its LTE services. Currently, around 10 countries in Asia and Europe have chosen the 1.8GHz band for LTE services

The LTE-Advanced service will initially be available in central areas of Seoul and 42 cities in Gyeonggi-do and Chungcheong-do, as well as 103 university areas. SK plans to expand the service with seven supporting smartphones by the end of this year and cover 84 cities.

The network offers up to 150 Mbps, double the speed of the existing LTE network. It employs carrier aggregation and coordinated multi point technology to enhance coverage and bandwidth, and SK plans to add enhanced inter-cell interference coordination next year.

LTE-Advanced will offer a data speed increase over current LTE networks by deploying upgrades at the radio access network (RAN) and handset. Key features of LTE-A include:

  • Carrier aggregation that bonds two or more separate radio channels for more speed and capacity.
  • Multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) antenna arrays of 2×2 or more on the devices and infrastructure.
  • Relay nodes, low power radios using a single channel for backhaul and local access to provide improved coverage and capacity at the cell edge.
  • Coordinated Multipoint enable the dynamic coordination of transmission and reception over a variety of different base stations

The faster speeds on LTE-A are expected to support a group calling service for up to four users, based on the 3G videoconferencing service but with better video and audio quality, and full HD (1080p resolution) over the Btv mobile video streaming service (550,000 subscribers) from early July.

The company will also launch ‘T Baseball Multiview,’ to enable users to watch two different games on one screen in July. T Baseball is a free baseball broadcast service optimized to the LTE network. Launched in August 2012, the service has 1.1 million users.

In addition, SK Telecom plans to launch ‘T Freemium 2.0,’ an upgrade of its free multimedia content package with TV shows, music videos and sports highlights and introduce in August an HD video-based shopping service with six channels on one screen.

To further boost content creation, SK Telecom will hold the contest ‘LTE-A i.con’ to support applications optimized for the LTE-A network.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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