SK Telecom set for LTE spectrum aggregation


South Korean telecom giant SK Telecom said it has launched a multi carrier pilot service allowing the carrier to use its 800 MHz and 1.8 GHz spectrum holdings to offer LTE service. The carrier said the move will result a wider frequency bandwidth and a commercial offerings by July.

By combining spectrum from its 800 MHz and the 20 megahertz of spectrum in the 1.8 GHz band it acquired last year, it will be using a total of 40 megahertz of spectrum for its LTE service resulting in greater speeds and capacity. This aggregation is a highly anticipated update to the LTE standard expected to be included in the Release 10 version of the technology, also known as LTE-Advanced.

“The biggest strength of [multi carrier]lies in that it allows the use of additional frequency bands and enables effective and efficient use of frequencies,” SK Telecom noted in a statement. “As it chooses the faster one between the two frequency bands for LTE communications, mobile data traffic is optimally distributed to each frequency band, preventing network overload.”

SK Telecom said it expects to provide coverage using the enhanced service to the Seoul area this year, with plans to expand the offering to 23 other cities by early 2013. Legacy devices will not be compatible with the offering, with SK noting that so far only its recently released Vega Racer 2 device can take advantage of the upgrade. The carrier noted it will send out a firmware upgrade to commercial devices to enable support.

Most operators are currently using either a Release 8 or Release 9 version of the LTE standard that so far does not support spectrum aggregation. Domestic operators are looking towards the capability as Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility are expected to combine their 700 MHz and 1.7/2.1 GHz spectrum holdings for their LTE services, while Sprint Nextel is looking to use its 1.9 GHz and 800 MHz holdings – and eventually Clearwire’s 2.5 GHz spectrum – for its offering.

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Dan Meyer

Editor-in-Chief, Telecom Software, Policy, Wireless Carriers
Dan Meyer started at RCR Wireless News in 1999 covering wireless carriers and wireless technologies. As editor-in-chief, Dan oversees editorial direction, reports on news from the wireless industry, including telecom software, policy and wireless carriers, and provides opinion stories on topics of concern to the market such as his popular Friday column “Worst of the Week.”