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SK Telecom launches commercial LTE-A service

South Korea’s SK Telecom has laid claim to launching the world’s first LTE-Advanced network, offering customers network speeds twice as fast as its current LTE network, which was launched in 2011.

The carrier said the newly launched network provides theoretical downlink speeds up to 150 megabits per second by combining a pair of 10 megahertz carriers to form an effective 20 megahertz channel. That combination is made through SK Telecom’s use of carrier aggregation and coordinated multi point, with plans to add enhanced inter-cell interference coordination to the mix next year.

Several years ago, domestic operator Clearwire had dabbled with bolstering the spectrum allotment for LTE technology in order to maximize speeds noting it had run network tests using a total of 40 megahertz that produced downlink speeds of up to 90 Mbps.

As for the commercial aspects of the service, customers can access the network using the latest Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE-A smartphone, with plans to have seven LTE-A compatible devices on the market by the end of the year. Service pricing will remain the same as what the carrier is currently charging for its LTE offering.

The LTE-A service is available across most of Seoul, central areas of 42 cities in Gyeonggi-do and Chungcheong-do, and 103 university areas. SK Telecom said it plans to expand coverage to 84 cities across the country.

The launch of LTE-A also provides the industry with its first legitimate reason to use the “4G” moniker. The ITU had initially designed the LTE-A standard as true 4G along with WirelessMAN-Advanced, though bowed to pressure by the marketing efforts of carriers looking to designate their LTE networks with the same tag.

SK Telecom launched its initial LTE service in mid-2011, and has since aggressively moved to bolster support for the technology. A number of carriers have announced plans to begin rolling out LTE-A services beginning later this year, with the technology a topic of conversation at the recent Mobile World Congress event.

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