SK Telecom fires up South Korean LTE network

SK Telecom has launched the first commercial LTE network in South Korea with the service going live today, 1 July 2011.

The network uses 800MHz spectrum using 5MHz of bandwidth, doubling to 10MHz by the fourth quarter of 2011. The network in Seoul comprises of 1,172 Radio Units that act as antennas and 609 Digital Units that handle data. It will also be boosted by the use of one million 800MHz repeaters for seamless coverage across the city and SK Telecom said it will deliver a maximum downlink speed of 37.5Mbps.

The operator said it expects to have 300,000 LTE subscribers by the end of 2011. It hopes to offer national coverage by 2013 taking the subscriber numbers to 10 million by 2015.

Nine LTE data devices will be released in 2011, starting with a USB dongle and LTE modem at launch. Five LTE smartphones will follow in September and two LTE enabled tablet devices in October. More LTE handsets are expected during 2012.

To accompany these the operator said it plans to launch a high-quality video call service that it said would offer eight times better image quality and two times higher voice quality over 3G video calling. The operator said the data throughput for video calls would be increased from 64Kbps to over 500Kbps.

It also plans to offer an evolved version of its T Map navigation service, T Store, a cloud based video content store and T Cloud, a cloud based storage area for personal content.

The launch follows the first demonstration of LTE in Korea held in April, where a video call was made between a building and a moving bus. It also showed off 3D video streaming and downloading of HD video content.

SK Telekom adopted CDMA 2000 1X in 2000 and said that it achieved the world’s first commercialisation of mobile phone-based 3G WCDMA (HSDPA) in 2006. HSPA+ was introduced in June 2010 and had reached 42 cities by April 2011.

The operator said that monthly data traffic recorded in June 2011 was 19 times that of August 2010 and expects a dramatic increase as high speed data enabled devices proliferate.

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