Speed of your smartphone depends on carrier, neighborhood

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Speed of your smartphone depends on carrier, neighborhood

Will my LTE smartphone be as fast in Busan’s Haeundae District as it is near Gangnam subway station in Seoul?

Speed matters in our era of highly evolved smartphones, but the rapidity of long-term evolution (LTE) services offered by mobile carriers differ according to neighborhood.

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning measured LTE service speeds, and earlier this week posted them on Smart Choice, a telecom service price information web portal operated by the Korea Telecommunications Operators Association.

The Science Ministry’s telecom quality evaluation team measured the regular LTE service speed of the country’s three telecoms in 235 spots nationwide - from rural villages to glitzy boulevards in urban areas - last October and November.

In the greater Seoul area, the two larger carriers, SK Telecom and KT, offered about 15 percent to 25 percent faster data speeds than LG U+. The two companies sped up data flow through broadband LTE services by combining nearby frequency bandwidths. The LG U+ LTE-Advanced service does the same thing by connecting two bandwidths that are nonadjacent.

Both techniques are supposed to double data speeds up to 150 megabits per seconds. In reality, the broadband LTE service was faster than LTE-A in 23 of Seoul’s 25 districts. The exceptions were Yongsan and Dongjak.

LG U+ said the ministry’s calculations were already outdated.

“We started building broadband LTE network in Seoul and greater Seoul since year-end 2013,” LG U+ said. “The speed must be a lot faster now than when the Science Ministry made evaluation.”

In terms of broadband LTE service, Dobong and Geumcheon were two Seoul districts with the fastest speed of 70 megabits per second. Three posh districts in southern Seoul - Seocho, Gangnam and Songpa - recorded speeds slower than the average 56.6 megabits per second.

“Those three districts are filled with office buildings and apartment complexes, so it is relatively difficult to speed up compared to other districts,” a mobile carrier spokesman said.

The Science Ministry also measured data speed of regular LTE services in 21 downtown areas of cities where the three carriers haven’t fullly launched broadband LTE services. SK Telecom offered the fastest service in Seomyeon, Busan; Dongseongro, Daegu; and Chungjangro, Gwangju.

But KT offered the highest average data speed on expressways. On the Gyeongbu Expressway, which connects Seoul and Busan, KT was the fastest with 39.5 megabits per second.

In Seoul, SK Telecom worked best in seven populated areas, including Myeong-dong, Hongdae, Itaewon and at Jamsil subway station. The LG U+ service was faster in three areas, including City Hall’s plaza and Gangnam Station. KT was excluded from the regular LTE service quality evaluation because it had already completed the upgrading of its LTE service to broadband LTE in all parts of Seoul and the greater Seoul areas.

The data speed war is expected to continue as all three carriers are planning to launch broadband LTE services in all six metropolitan cities starting next month and nationwide in July.

Another hot issue will arise in March: competition to become the nation’s first carrier to commercialize broadband LTE-A service in Seoul. Broadband LTE-A offers data speeds three times faster than regular LTE, from 75 to 225 megabits per second. It allows subscribers to download a 1 gigabyte movie in just 37 seconds.

“I would recommend subscribers check the service quality of the areas they visit most frequently,” an official from the Science Ministry said.

BY PARK SU-RYON [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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