Posted : 2016-05-22 17:36
Updated : 2016-05-22 18:55

SK Telecom to offer faster mobile services

By Yoon Sung-won

SK Telecom will provide faster mobile network services earlier than KT and LG Uplus, tapping into the wider long-term evolution (LTE) bandwidth it secured during a frequency auction this month.

As SK Telecom has obtained an advantageous position in the transition period before the launch of the fifth-generation (5G) mobile service in 2020, KT and LG Uplus ― which have claimed their services are faster and more stable ― are under pressure to come up with their own strategies in the next phase of network speed race.

The nation's largest telco said Sunday it would launch next month what it calls the "LTE-A Pro," which supports up to 500-megabit-per-second (Mbps) speed, and plans to provide the 1-gigabit-per-second (Gbps) nationwide LTE service, which is about 13 times faster than the original LTE service, by 2019.

"Our competitors cannot follow us," SK Telecom's infrastructure strategy division senior vice president Choi Seung-won told a media forum in Seoul, Friday. "Through this month's frequency auction, we have established a basis to provide the nation's only five-band carrier aggregation (CA) service."

During the government's frequency auction on May 2, SK Telecom added 50-megahertz (MHz) LTE bandwidth, securing a total of 70MHz download bandwidth for faster mobile services. KT and LG Uplus both secured 50MHz after the auction.

Theoretically, wider frequency capacity leads to faster LTE network speed. This means SK Telecom has obtained a competitive edge in the race for network speed. However, in the actual environments, the network speed may be slowed if subscribers overcrowd the bandwidth.

SK Telecom said it would launch the faster network service first in the metropolitan area by 2018 and expand coverage to 90 percent of the nation by 2019 with more than 90,000 base stations.

SK Telecom said it would add the latest LTE technologies such as 256 quadrature amplitude modulation and four-by-four multiple input multiple output to its 2.6GHz broadband bandwidth to boost network speed.

The company also said that once it was able to provide both the LTE-A Pro and five-band CA technologies it would realize the 1Gbps speed. If it added the inter-networking technology that combined LTE to Wi-Fi networks, the maximum speed would rise to 2.7Gbps.

LG Uplus, which secured an LTE bandwidth in the 2.1GHz frequency range during the auction, said it would provide "dual broadband triband CA" services, which supported up to 700Mbps speed.

"We will apply the next-generation LTE technologies on our dual broadband bandwidth to provide up to 700Mbps speed network within this year," LG Uplus said.
KT also argued that the gigabit-class mobile network services were not exclusive to SK Telecom.

"We commercialized the GiGA LTE for the first time in the world in June last year, realizing the 1Gbps mobile network speed," a KT spokesman said. "The LTE-A Pro is not SK Telecom's specialty technology. All three telecom companies are providing this."

KT's GiGA LTE provides faster network speed on latest mobile devices by combining its broadband LTE network and Wi-Fi local networks.

The nation's second-largest telecom company also points out that providing the faster network to more users was more important that the maximum speed.

"Less than 10 percent of users benefit from the triband CA technology now and we believe that offering a faster network evenly is more important," the KT spokesman said. "To that end, we have pushed for a network upgrade, mainly targeting highly populated buildings."

Meanwhile, SK Telecom also said it would accelerate setting up the nation's only low-power wide area network dedicated to Internet of Things (IoT) services, called "LoRa," and complete it within June.

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