Korean telecommunications firm KT has teamed with Samsung to combine Wi-Fi and LTE in a gigabit-speed mobile service called GiGA LTE. The service, which is now available for Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge devices, offers download speeds of up to 1.17 Gbps, according to the Korea Herald.
In addition to downloading over 15 times faster than traditional LTE, GiGA LTE also boasts upload speeds that outstrip tri-band broadband LTE-A--Korea's fastest existing service--ten times over by combining 3-Band Carrier Aggregation LTE and Wi-Fi. The vastly improved speeds, which averaged between 600-700 Mbps during KT's press conference to announce the technology, means a competitive advantage for KT as the company and the rest of the telecom industry prepare for escalating mobile data traffic and an eventual evolution to 5G network technology.
"The GiGA LTE is a high-end technology that is two or three years ahead of its time," said Oh Sung-mok, head of KT's network division, according to the Herald. "KT will spare no efforts to develop faster and more stable mobile technologies for customers."
The hybrid technology, which is based on Multi-Path Transmission Control Protocol (MP TCP), is built on KT's existing Wi-Fi network. The firm owns approximately 140,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in South Korea, as well as around 200,000 LTE base stations, meaning customers can use the service in hundreds of thousands of Wi-Fi zones in the country.
The Korea Herald reported that Samsung will release a variety of high-end and mid-end handsets later in the year that will be capable of supporting GiGA LTE, according to a KT official. Currently, GiGA LTE is only available on KT's unlimited data plans.
Still, critics are plenty for the future of such technologies that combine transmissions over licensed LTE spectrum and unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum. Some worry that cellular networks encroaching on unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum could suffocate Wi-Fi users. Already, carriers across the world, including Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) in the United States, are moving forward with such technologies, including LTE-Unlicensed and Licensed Assisted Access (LAA).
Concurrently, a variety of vendors are moving to support technologies that combine LTE and Wi-Fi in various scenarios. Earlier this year, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) announced its Wi-Fi Boost system, which uses Wi-Fi strictly for downloads, relying on the cellular network for all other functions. Separately, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) launched MuLTEfire, an unlicensed spectrum technology, last week. The company declined to comment on its potential overlap with GiGA LTE.
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