SK Telecom said it is the first mobile operator to launch a pilot service for LTE multi-carrier technology, which it intends to commercialize in July.
Multi-carrier technology enables the South Korean operator to use both its existing 800 MHz and the 1.8 GHz frequency band it acquired in the second half of last year for LTE. LTE MC assesses the level of data traffic congestion in an area and automatically selects the less congested, and thus faster, frequency band to deliver service. 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."
By employing both bands, SKT will have 40MHz for its LTE services, the operator said. In addition, using the 1.8 GHz band will enable SKT to offer LTE roaming with numerous countries, including 10 countries in Asia and Europe.
SKT launched a pilot multi-carrier service in a limited area but expects to cover all of Seoul with the technology this year and will expand coverage to 23 other major cities in early 2013.
The Vega Racer 2 released in May 2012 already includes MC compatibility, and SKT said it is negotiating with device manufacturers to include MC as a basic feature for its LTE smartphones. Legacy devices are not compatible with the multi-carrier technology.
SKT has also said it will commercialize LTE carrier aggregation in 2013 in order to actually combine its spectrum assets and double the speed of its service.
Operators of all sizes in the United States hope to eventually employ carrier aggregation to bring together their frequencies in disparate bands. For example, MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS), which owns both 1.9GHz PCS and 1.7/2.1 GHz AWS frequencies, as well as some 700 MHz frequencies, has said it would like to use aggregation to make the most of its limited spectrum holdings. WiMAX operator Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) plans to use carrier aggregation technology in its forthcoming TD-LTE network to meld together it spectrum holdings into 40 MHz-wide channels.
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