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South Korea's KT launches 1.17Gbps GiGA LTE

South Korea's largest telecommunications company, KT, is set to commercialize its GiGA LTE technology, which combines LTE networks with Wi-Fi connections for data speeds in excess of 1Gbps.

Published onJune 16, 2015

KT Giga-LTE promotion

South Korea’s largest telecommunications company, KT, has announced the world’s fastest commercialized mobile data service, based on its GiGA LTE technology. By combining traditional LTE coverage with localized WiFi networks, the service is able to provide consumers with data speeds up to an incredible 1.17Gbps.

KT has 200,000 LTE base stations and 140,000 Wi-Fi hotspots installed across the country and hopes to have the majority of the population covered with GiGA LTE. Current high-speed multi-band LTE-A implementations tend to top out in the region of 300Mbps, making GiGA LTE up to four times faster than existing networks. Although real world traffic usage and handset speed restrains will lower the achievable results, speeds will certainly be noticeably faster than before.

As well as offering consumers higher data speeds, KT is looking to GiGA LTE to help accommodate future demands on network bandwidth, which is expected to increase up to 1,000 times by 2020. KT suggests that this will be as a result of 8K video content and UHD hologram services.

Rival South Korean mobile carriers SK Telecom and LG Uplus have also announced that they will be launching their own network technologies that make use of simultaneous Wi-Fi and LTE data connections later this month.

“Around five to six more high-end and mid-end Samsung handsets, compatible with the GiGA LTE, will be released in the latter half of this year along with some LG Electronics handsets,” – KT

Of course, consumers are going to need compatible smartphones to make use of the technology. The first supported handsets will be the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, which will begin receiving an update from today to make them compatible with KT’s GiGA LTE network. Other compatible handsets will be launched later in the year.

What is GiGA LTE?

GiGA LTE is part of the drive towards the still not fully defined 5G standard, which aims to increase available network bandwidth once again. Multi-antenna LTE-A technology was the first step down this road and combining long range wireless data transmission with high-speed local hotspot network access is what some envision for 5G.

KT has teamed up with Samsung Electronics for the past nine months to develop the GiGA LTE technology. Although we don’t have the exact details on how GiGA LTE works, you may recall that Samsung has been working on a similar type of aggregation technology for quite a while.

samsung galaxy s5 download booster screenshot
Samsung’s Download Booster technology showed us the possibilities available with aggregated LTE and Wi-Fi networks a while back.

The “Download Booster” feature found in flagship handsets like the Galaxy S5, Note 3 and Note 5 looks like the starting point for GiGA LTE. Last year US carriers chose to block network access to Samsung’s Download Booster, but they hadn’t invested in the infrastructure to offer consumers this type of network experience anyway.

The implementation of dedicated small node Wi-Fi signals is enabling KT to offer 1Gbps speeds to consumers over such a vast area. Samsung is most likely supplying the know-how on the mobile hardware and software side, to ensure compatibility with KT’s network and hotspots.

Qualcomm has also been talking a lot about this type of small node, big network concept for a while now and recently unveiled details on its own LTE-Unlicensed initiative. This aims to supplement LTE data with LTE-U small cell networks operating in the unlicensed 5GHz spectrum usually used by WiFi networks. Although hardware support across a range of carriers and network services is really needed to make LTE + Wi-Fi technology ubiquitous and suitable for a 5G standard.

Qualcomm Small Cell aggregation
Qualcomm has unveiled plans for its own LTE-U 5GHz based aggregation technology.

As usual, South Korea is leading the way with commercialized advanced mobile technologies, but GiGA LTE is a sign of things to come for all of us further down the line.

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