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SK Telecom, getting ready to commercialize 5-time faster, 3-band CA
11/18/2015 | By An, Hochun (hcan@etnews.com)


SK Telecom began working on commercialization of 3-band CA, known to support up to 375 Mbps - 5 times faster LTE. The service can be launched as early as sometime in the first half of next year, depending on how relevant policies on 2.1 GHz spectrum are finalized by the Korean government.

The industry confirmed that on the 18th the company installed five-time faster 3-band LTE-A-compatible software at 5 base stations across the Seoul metropolitan area to secure testbeds of minimum coverage, and conducted field tests to specifically monitor interworking between the stations and devices. The company began the commercialization process of 375 Mbps service with Samsung Electronics back in March.  


Current LTE service supports up to 75 Mbps per 10 MHz in DL. Today, Korean big 3 operators are offering four-time faster, '3-band LTE-A' supporting up to 300 Mbps by combining one wide bandwidth of 20 MHz and two 10 MHz bandwidths. But, SK Telecom wants to go even further - realization of five-time faster, 3-band LTE supporting up to 375 Mbps through combination of 3 bands - two 20 MHz and one 10MHz.


It is assumed a Cat 9 device (G Flex2, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy Note5, etc.) was used in the tests. Cat 9 device can support maximum speeds of 450Mbps in DL.


If everything goes well, the company will be the world's first operator who successfully supports five-time faster, 375 Mbps through 3-band CA of 50 MHz: 20 MHz at 1.8 GHz, 10 MHz at 800 MHz, and 20 MHz at 2.1 GHz.   



Of total 20 MHz at 2.1 GHz, 10 MHz was reassigned for LTE use months ago, but it is now being used for purpose of distributing traffic only. Decisions as to when CA can be applied in the spectrum as well will likely be made only after the government's finalization of the 2.1 GHz spectrum policies.  

SK Telecom and KT's licenses on 100 MHz (UL + DL) in 2.1 GHz will expire at the end of 2016. So, there have been fierce disputes on what to do with 60 MHz (excluding 40 MHz assigned for 3G). Auction (full or partial (20MHz that SK Telecom is using)) or reassignment (full)?  SK Telecom wants full reassignment while LG U+ insists full auction.   


There are different views on when 375 Mbps service can be launched. If SK Telecom can be reassigned the spectrum it is currently using in 2.1 GHz in full, it should be able to begin the five-time faster LTE service as it hoped. However, as the government appears to plan an auction of the 20 MHz that SK Telecom is using, the company might have to secure the spectrum at an auction early next year. The Korean government will be announcing finalized policies on 2.1 GHz spectrum in early December. 

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