SKT pushes multicarrier LTE forward
Korean cellco tests system to pool 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum to gain bandwidth advantage over rivals
Published: 1 June, 2012
Many operators will move quickly from their initial LTE band to expand the 4G services into a second area of spectrum. Verizon aims to harness AWS alongside its current 700MHz band and European operators have often acquired both 800MHz and 2.6GHz licences. And refarmed bands like 1.8GHz and US PCS are also coming into play. One of the greatest hopes for increasing spectrum capacity, and efficient use of available bandwidth, is the deployment of multicarrier LTE, and as usual Korean cellcos are in the vanguard of 4G advances.
SK Telecom has launched what it says is the world's first pilot of Multi-Carrier (MC) LTE technology, with an eye to a commercial launch in July. It is using the 800MHz and 1.8GHz bands and the trial aims to optimize handover between the bands, so they can be harnessed as a single pool of spectrum.
The cellco plans to deploy MC-LTE technology across Korean capital Seoul within the year and then roll it out to 23 other cities after that. Using both bands simultaneously, rather than in a segregated dual-mode network, will give the carrier a total of 40MHz of LTE spectrum, often considered the minimum amount required to support 'true' broadband services at wireline quality. This will be twice the bandwidth that its rivals, KT and UPlus, have at their disposal and should allow it to deliver the fastest LTE connections.
Of course, any new network technology can be hampered by scanty availability of devices, and at launch next month there will only be one handset choice, the Vega Racer 2, which has been made to SKT's specifications. However, the carrier says it is in talks with its main OEMs to include MC support as a default feature for LTE smartphones targeted at South Korea.