Riding a faster, more sophisticated network

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Riding a faster, more sophisticated network

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There are many ways to define Long Term Evolution (LTE) , a fourth-generation (4G) wireless communications technology.

Lee Sang-chul, the CEO of LG U+, said that “LTE is like having a 16-lane road for data traffic, as opposed to a two-lane road.”

Bae Joon-dong, president of SK Telecom’s network business division, used a more unconventional comparison. “LTE is like spaghetti, and 3G is like jjajangmyeon [black bean paste noodles],” Bae said.

The former is generally considered a more expensive and sophisticated dish than the latter in Korea.

Simply put, what the two executives are trying to say is that LTE is faster and fancier than 3G, or third-generation technology.

LTE was the name for a project by a group of telecommunications associations that was developing 4G wireless technology amid calls for high-speed data. As the name suggests, the goal was to develop the technology through evolution from previous advances, according to industry sources.

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LTE has a data-transmission speed that is 5-7 times faster than 3G. With the newly unveiled Galaxy S II LTE phone, for example, a 800-megabyte movie can be downloaded in just 1 minute and 32 seconds, according to a test by a JoongAng Ilbo reporter.

Development and commercialization efforts for LTE began in Europe, and the world’s first commercial LTE service was launched in Stockholm and Oslo in 2009.

That is in stark contrast with WiBro (Wireless Broadband), another kind of 4G technology. Korean companies like Samsung Electronics and KT were the architects of WiBro, which is thought to be slightly slower than LTE. And unfortunately for those Korean firms, it appears that many major countries like the U.S., Japan and China are jumping on the LTE bandwagon.

Some critics have said that it will be a couple of more years before LTE phones become household items. Currently, SK Telecom operates LTE networks in Seoul and other cities. But only Samsung and Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC have unveiled LTE devices.


By Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

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