SK Telecom says that it has commercially launched LTE-A Pro – the last stage of LTE evolution – using five-band carrier aggregation (CA) and 4X4 MIMO.
Five-band CA is a LTE-A Pro technology that aggregates five component carriers to boost data throughput speeds – in this case, up to 700 Mbps. SK Telecom says its five-band CA LTE-A Pro service currently covers 53 cities in Korea, including Seoul, Busan and Daegu.
SK Telecom also launched a 900-Mbps version of LTE-A Pro that combines its existing three-band/ four-band CA and 4X4 MIMO. That service covers the main areas of six major cities – Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon and Ulsan. (The three-band CA service, which supports peak data rates of 500 Mbps, is available in main areas of all 85 cities in Korea, covering approximately 51% of the Korean population, SK Telecom says.)
SK Telecom says it intends to expand coverage for both LTE-A Pro service options until the combined services will cover more than 50% of the Korean population by the end of 2017.
In terms of device compatibility, the LTE-A Pro services can be used only by Samsung Galaxy S8 users, who will first need an over-the-air firmware upgrade. SK Telecom says future premium smartphone launches will support LTE-A Pro.
Meanwhile, SK Telecom says it is already making plans for the next stage of LTE-A Pro – a 1-Gbps service combining four-band/five-band CA, 4X4 MIMO and 256 QAM, to be launched in the first half of 2018.
Choi Seung-won, senior vice president and head of SK Telecom’s Infrastructure Strategy Office, said its LTE-A Pro services will give it a leg up in the race to 5G, and will facilitate the spread of immersive multimedia services such as virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D holograms.
“SK Telecom will continue to offer differentiated mobile communications quality through LTE-A Pro service, while utilizing the network to gain a valuable edge in the 5G era,” Choi said.