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SK Telecom develops LTE-A tri-band carrier aggregation technology

SK Telecom has announced plans to extend its LTE and LTE-A networks by building additional base stations using the 1.8GHz band by the end of this year

As promised at the end of last year, LTE pioneer SK Telecom has successfully developed LTE-Advanced tri-band carrier aggregation technology, to ease network congestion in built up areas in South Korea.

SK Telecom has spectrum holdings in the 800MHz and 1800MHz bands and said that it has developed technology that can combine three blocks of spectrum – 20MHz, 10MHz and 10MHz – across these bands to support speeds of up to 300Mbps. The operator plans to demonstrate the technology running at speeds of 450Mbps using three 20MHz blocks at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Capable chipset and devices are expected to become commercialised at the end of 2014.

“[SK Telecom] is not trying to sell these speeds to the end user, it’s not an obsession with network speeds,” explained research firm Ovum’s practice leader of Industry, Communications & Broadband Practice Steven Hartley.

“In Korea the big issue is congestion on the network. By doing something like this, rather than having three smaller pipes you have one big pipe; it’s a way of getting the “water” to flow through it. It will boost capacity per cell site. In areas such as a crossroads in Seoul where many people might be streaming video, it will be able to serve more users.”

The 9th annual LTE Asia conference is taking place on the 15th-17th September 2014 at the Suntec, Singapore. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

SK Telecom acquired additional bandwidth at the end of August 2013 and used it to launch an enhanced LTE service, which should cover the nation by July 2014. All LTE-Advanced devices that support 1.8 GHz will benefit from improved speeds of without having to pay any extra fees.

In order for consumers to use the technology, they will need to use tri-band smartphones. Hartley said that smartphone chipsets are improving and that with SK Telecom developing its technology, he expects South Korean handset makers Samsung and LG to step up their production of tri-band smartphones.

Both manufacturers have already produced handsets that support US operator Sprint’s own tri-band service, Sprint Spark. The devices support active hand-off mode between 800MHz, 1.9GHz and 2.5GHz, according to Sprint. The service offers speeds of 50Mbps to 60Mbps to users, and said that there is potential to increase those speeds over time. Sprint Spark is available in 11 US markets and Sprint plans to deploy it in around 100 US cities over the next three years.


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