South Korea’s largest wireless operator by subscribers, SK Telecom (SKT) has launched commercially what it claims is the world’s first LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) service available through smartphones. Noting that the technology allows it to offer downlink speeds of up to 150Mbps, SKT said that in order to commercialise LTE-A it had ‘successfully developed and applied the most-advanced mobile network technologies’, specifically noting that it had applied Carrier Aggregation (CA) and Coordinated Multi Point (CoMP) software; it also has plans to apply Enhanced Inter-Cell Interference Coordination (eICIC) in 2014.
At launch SKT’s LTE-A network covers all of the capital Seoul, as well as central areas of 42 cities in Gyeonggi-do and Chungcheong-do and 103 ‘university areas’. Looking ahead, the operator has said it expects the network footprint to be expanded to a total of 84 cities across the country, although it has not laid out a specific timetable for this, only saying it will happen ‘gradually’. Meanwhile, SKT has also confirmed that its existing LTE tariffs will apply to the LTE-A service.
Commenting on the development, Park In-sik, President of Network Business Operations at SKT, said: ‘SKT is proud to announce the world’s first commercialisation of LTE-A. By supporting [speeds twice as fast as] LTE, LTE-A will not only enhance customers’ satisfaction in network quality, but also give birth to new mobile value added services that can bring innovative changes to our customers’ lives.’
In separate but related news SKT has also confirmed that it now has more than 4.5 million subscribers using its voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) service, with the cellco’s chief technical officer Dr Jae W. Byun announcing the figure at the LTE World Summit in Amsterdam. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, SK inaugurated commercial VoLTE services in August 2012 under the ‘HD Voice’ banner. At launch the cellco extolled the benefits of the new service, highlighting its increased sound quality, while also boasting of speedier connection times; call connections reportedly take less than 0.25 seconds to 2.5 seconds, which it claimed was up to 20 times faster than 3G voice calls, which take on average five seconds to connect. Meanwhile, having launched its LTE network in July 2011, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, at end-March 2013 SKT boasted the largest number of 4G accesses in South Korea, with 9.334 million of its customers at that date having taken up LTE-based services, up from just 1.500 million a year earlier.