By Yoon Sung-won
The nation's three mobile carriers said Monday that they have begun providing the latest long-term evolution advanced (LTE-A) network nationwide.
However, most customers will experience no difference in services because they have yet to buy a compatible handset.
To date, the latest network dubbed broadband LTE-A has only been available in the capital area and in some major cities.
The broadband LTE-A network uses a technology called carrier aggregation to combine the existing broadband 20 megahertz (MHz) frequency to an additional 10MHz carrier frequency to realize up to 225 megabits-per-second (Mbps) download speed.
This is compared to the 75Mbps maximum download speed of the original LTE network, which was launched three years ago.
SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus said they can launch the service after building more base stations and and conducting field tests in network environments.
SK, the largest mobile carrier, said it has built a total of 210,000 base stations for the network in 85 cities and 78 counties.
The second-largest KT said it finished preparation and has provided the broadband LTE-A network in the capital area and large cities since March.
It added that with more than 100,000 base stations, its network coverage is the most extensive and stable because the company has already operated services in the carrier frequency the latest LTE network is based on.
LG Uplus, the smallest telecom firm, is also to start the nationwide broadband LTE-A service today.
"We provided the nation's first LTE service and have also been the first to expand it nationwide," Lee Sang-chul, vice president of LG Uplus, said, Monday. "With the launch of broadband LTE-A and our unique LTE video streaming service, we'll take the lead in establishing even faster mobile networks in the future."
Though the local telecom businesses are busy advertising their own nationwide service, not many users are expected to benefit from it as of now because currently there is only one smartphone model that uses the new network.
Samsung Electronics launched an upgrade to its handset Galaxy S5, which is titled the "Galaxy S5 Broadband LTE-A," through market leader SK Telecom on June 19.
The electronics giant then released the same model through LG Uplus and KT on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
No other handset maker has announced a plan to release a model that uses the latest network.
If an LTE smartphone does not use the broadband LTE-A network, the maximum download speed is limited to 100Mbps or 150Mbps even after the service is applied.
Even with the latest handset, users may not experience the maximum 225Mbps speed since it is a theoretical figure.
"It's not right to anticipate the network speed will actually become three times faster than before in every circumstance, especially when using not-so-heavy network services such as web searching," an industry official said.
Earlier on June 19, an executive at SK Telecom said, "We expect the average download speed in actual daily use to be some 70 to 80Mbps," emphasizing that the average speed of the original LTE was 30 to 40Mbps and that of the LTE-A was 50 to 60Mbps.
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