SK Telecom has stolen a march on domestic and international rivals by claiming to have launched the world’s first network based on LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) technology.
The launch comes just two years after the South Korean company began providing commercial LTE services, and with many operators around the world yet to begin offering LTE to their customers.
SK Telecom (Seoul, South Korea) claims that LTE-A works twice as fast as LTE, providing connection speeds of up to 150Mbps, but it expects to be able to provide 300Mbps services by 2015 – thanks to technological advances – and says even higher speeds will be possible in future.
According to Wireless Intelligence, some 13 operators have announced plans to launch LTE-A, with Sprint (Overland Park, KS, USA), Telstra (Melbourne, Australia), 3 Italia (Milan, Italy) and Yota (Moscow, Russia) saying they will do so this year, but none has yet realized those plans apart from SK Telecom.
The operator said customers would be able to sign up for LTE-A services through existing LTE tariffs, which may disappoint investors expecting operators to charge more for higher-speed services.
Moreover, the device line-up is currently limited to just one smartphone – the Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE-A – although SK Telecom insisted it would “vigorously expand its LTE-A phone lineup to boost the popularization of LTE-A service”, with plans to provide a total of seven LTE-A-compatible smartphones in the second half of 2013.
In the meantime, it has secured an initial supply of 20,000 Samsung devices.
The LTE-A service is currently available in Seoul, the central areas of 42 cities Gyeonggi-do and Chungdeong-do and 103 university areas, but SK Telecom says it will gradually expand coverage to 84 cities across the country.
It is also launching a number of new services that LTE-A allows it to provide for the first time.
These include a group video calling service for up to four years, which will be available from June 27, and a IPTV-based HD video streaming service that will be available from early July.
“By supporting twice faster speeds than 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,” said Park In-sik, the president of network business operations at SK Telecom.