SK Telecom eyes LTE-A in 2013

South Korean carrier SK Telecom this week held a demonstration of LTE technology ahead of a planned commercial launch in July, announcing its intention to upgrade to LTE-Advanced during 2013.

SK Telecom plans to begin providing commercial  LTE services in Seoul in July, explaining that LTE is suitable for large volume, real time data service; interconnects seamlessly with existing WCDMA networks; and will create rapidly growing markets for equipment, handsets and chipsets. SKT expects a flurry of LTE-based smartphones and tablets to emerge in 2012, with LTE additions to its device lineup appearing in the second half of this year.

Content consumption, which is currently focused on music, is expected to expand to video, SKT said, and with LTE, the company will be able to provide smooth download of high definition VOD and seamless streaming service, which will be available as early as the second half of 2011. In addition, mobile games will become as widespread and abundant as web games, with large volume fancy graphic games and simultaneous multiplayer games in particular expected to be actively played among users.
With the standard set for completion this summer, SKT is aiming to upgrade networks by evolving to LTE-A in 2013.

The company plans to expand its LTE coverage to 23 cities including the Seoul Metropolitan Area and other Metropolitan cities as soon as possible and provide nationwide coverage by 2013. Once fully commercialised, LTE will be able to handle three times more data traffic on 10MHz of spectrum compared to the existing WCDMA networks thanks to its enhanced speed, the operator claims.

To facilitate the rollout, SKT will adopt its own cloud-based network technology named Smart Cloud Access Network (SCAN) to set up its LTE network. With SCAN, SK Telecom has successfully separated the Digital Unit (DU) and Radio Unit (RU), the two main components of a base station. Now DUs will be stored together in one area, while Remote Radio Units (RRU) – along with the antenna – will be set up in various locations and linked via the cloud, enhancing network operation efficiency. Also, with full-fledged application of cloud computing technology, the network will be able to flexibly and seamlessly handle mobile data traffic that varies by time and region.

The company also announced an early application of Coordinated Multi-Point (CoMP) technology to its LTE network, which is designed to prevent base station interference and abrupt call disconnections in coverage boundary areas by enhancing signal strength, the lack of which leads to significant drop in data transmission speed. Most mobile carriers are planning to adopt this technology to LTE-A networks, SKT said.
LTE femtocells will also get a look in to enhance underground and indoor coverage as well as widespread deployment of 2G repeaters as it plans to provide LTE service in the 800MHz frequency band, which it used for 2G (CDMA) services.

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