Think your LTE is fast? Koreans will have 300Mbps LTE-A this year

January 20, 2014
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Samsung Galaxy Round Hands On AA  (2 of 19)

By combining three distinct spectrum bands, two of Korea’s largest carriers will be able to offer LTE download speeds of up to 300Mbps by the end of the year.

SK Telecom and LG U Plus, the largest and third largest carrier in South Korea respectively, announced today that they will offer 300Mbps download speeds this year. Both companies claim they are the world’s first carrier to offer this type of service, even though customers will only get to try it in late 2014.

Both SK Telecom and LG U Plus make use of carrier aggregation, a technology part of the LTE-Advanced specification that combines multiple bands of spectrum to offer faster transfer rates. For instance, LG U Plus uses a 40MHz band at 2.6GHz, a 20MHz band at 800MHz, and a 20MHz band at 2.1GHz. By harnessing 3-band carrier aggregation technology, carriers can offer rates that are four times faster than the theoretical 75Mpbs offered by “regular” LTE.

An 800MB movie in just 22 seconds

According to SK Telecom, at the theoretical top speed of the new network, users will be able to download an 800MB movie in just 22 seconds. And it doesn’t stop here, as the company said it would pursue 4-band and 5-band aggregation in the future. In reality, speeds will probably be smaller due to various limitations, but still impressive nonetheless.

To benefit from these speeds, users will need a compatible smartphone. The current Snapdragon 800 SoC from Qualcomm only supports 2-band carrier aggregation, which enables speeds of up to 150Mpbs. The Snapdragon 805, expected in the market in the second half of the year, will enable 3-band carrier aggregation.

What about the rest of the world? For now, carriers in the Western markets are content with LTE, even if T-Mobile promised some LTE-A features by the end of 2013. It will probably take years for North America to catch up with Korea and other LTE-A pioneers.

It’s important to know that carrier aggregation is not the same with LTE-Advanced. Rather, carrier aggregation is just one of several techniques that enable higher transfer speeds on LTE-A. More nitty-gritty details in our LTE-Advanced overview here.

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