With more bandwidth, LTE may be twice as fast

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With more bandwidth, LTE may be twice as fast

The 10-day auction by the government for new frequency bands for speedier long-term evolution (LTE) connectivity turned out to be a win-win-win for all three mobile carriers in Korea and their customers.

The new band allocations will make it possible for existing LTE users to enjoy up to twice the data transmission speed starting as early as later this month depending on which carrier they subscribe to.

Looking ahead, the new frequency bands could change the fortunes of all three carriers - and their rankings in the market - as they enter a new race to offer LTE services.

The Ministry of Science, ITC and Future Planning said late Friday that SK Telecom won a bid for a 24 megahertz (MHz) band in the 1.8 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum for 1.5 trillion won ($1.35 billion); KT gained 15 MHz in the same spectrum for 900.1 billion won; and LG U+ secured 40 MHz in a different spectrum of 2.6 GHz for 478.8 billion won.

The actual payment SK Telecom will make will be 450 billion won because it will return its old band. Combined, the bidding price amounted to 2.43 trillion won for the government.

All of the carriers said in separate press releases following the government’s announcement that the auction produced the “best result.”

The new bands will enable each carrier to launch a so-called “wide bandwidth LTE” service. Normally the wider the frequency band is, the faster the speed of the connectivity. Whereas current LTE services use a 20 MHz bandwidth, the newly assigned bands boast up to twice the width - with great improvements in speed.

Wide bandwidth LTE has an edge over LTE-A, the latest evolution of services. Whereas LTE-A works with only a few smartphone models with a special chip for the connectivity, all LTE-enabled smartphones can take advantage of the superior speed with a wider bandwith. Owners of late models of popular smartphones, such as the Galaxy S4 or the iPhone 5, Optimus G Pro and Vega Iron, will see their data download speed increase from the current 75 Mbps to 100 Mbps maximum when new LTE services are launched - without having to switch to new phones.

Although KT was assigned only 15 MHz at 900.1 billion won, it will be able to combine it with an adjacent 20 MHz band it already has the rights to. The second player in the market was the only one among the three not to launch LTE-A service due to technical barriers. Now that it gained a combined 35 MHz band in the 1.8 GHz spectrum, it plans to become very aggressive in providing faster LTE service later this month in the Seoul metropolitan area.

SK Telecom is expected to begin offering the faster services in October.

LG U+ hasn’t released a plan yet because it needs to install new facilities on its new bandwidth of 2.6 GHz. It may be two to three years before LG U+ implements its new fast services.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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