SKT announced a pilot program in which they are deploying Multi Carrier LTE in the Seoul area, to facilitate higher throughputs without moving to Release 10 just yet. The pilot testing has started as of today and they plan to offer commercial service in July for around a 30 day test window. The deployment will expand from the golden cluster around Gangnam Station to all of Seoul this year and through another 23 urbanized areas/cities in South Korea by 2013. This announcement is multi carrier with 20MHz of spectrum at 800MHz and 20MHz at 1800MHz and not carrier aggregation although they tout their network as fully utilizing 40MHz of spectrum to provide service. They also mention that the Pantech Vega Racer 2 is their first UE to support this. So here’s my take on this interesting approach.
If they deployed a single vendor for 800/1800 MHz LTE, like Samsung, then the network would of course support load sharing between carriers. It’s still possible to do this between OEMs but I don’t think the capability exists from 3rd parties yet.
It appears to me the SKT innovation is to have a network testing algorithm on the UE allowing the UE to determine on initial attach which network was the least congested and/or most capable of greater throughputs.
Network carrier load balancing only would have some disadvantages because initially UEs would attach based on some rules such as provisioning or signal strength etc… whereas a UE assisted approach (both network and UE) would reduce the initial inefficiency. Also noteworthy is the fact that 1800 and 800 MHz have different propagation characteristics, so it’s likely 800 will be commonly used indoors and 1800 more outdoors just based on RF conditions. If they have somehow accelerated handover between carriers, it may be possible to realize a small performance gain just by more rapidly load balancing when entering hot spot areas and so on. Tiered networks in general have advantages if you could realize them, such as you could actively manage heavy users vs data sippers to optimize overall network throughput. It will be interesting to see how this moves forward. I think US operators would be interested in this too, I can think of several that have multiple spectrums and they may never aggregate them based on the costs.
Good stuff SK Telecom!
Full PR Below.
Links: SK Telecom
- Becomes the only Korean company to use 40MHz bandwidth to ensure fast speed even with growing number of customers
- Begins MC pilot service in the area from Gangnam Station to Kyobo Tower Crossroads from today and plans to launch world’s first commercial MC service in July 2012
- Plans to apply MC to the whole Seoul area within this year and 23 other cities including metropolitan cities by early 2013
- MC is embedded in Vega Racer 2 and the company is making efforts to include MC as a basic feature for all LTE smartphones to be launched from the second half of 2012
SK Telecom (NYSE:SKM) announced today the world’s first launch of pilot service for Multi Carrier (MC), a technology that enables use of both 800MHz and 1.8GHz frequency bands, in the area from Gangnam Station to Kyobo Tower Crossroads, and also revealed plans for its commercial launch in July 2012.
■ Secures twice wider frequency bandwidth to support unrivalled LTE service speed and quality
With the commercialization of MC, SK Telecom will be able to offer the fastest LTE speed in Korea as it will be utilizing twice wider frequency bandwidth than its competitors.
The company developed MC technology to utilize both its existing 800MHz frequency band and the 1.8GHz band it newly acquired in the second half of last year. With an additional 20MHz uplink/downlink spectrum, it will be using a total of 40MHz for its LTE services.
The biggest strength of MC lies in that it allows the use of additional frequency bands and enables effective and efficient use of frequencies. 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.
The MC system is similar to building an additional road in the always-congested area and then controlling the traffic to ensure smooth flow on both roads. For instance, upon detecting LTE user concentration in the 800MHz band, the system automatically moves data traffic to 1.8GHz to improve data rate. Therefore, LTE users can experience the fastest speed even at times of unexpected surges of mobile data traffic.
■ Commercialization of MC to begin July 2012, with plans to cover the whole Seoul area within 2012 and 23 other major cities by early 2013
SK Telecom will complete the optimization of handset-network interworking and handover between frequencies during the MC pilot service period and plans to commercialize the MC service in July 2012. The technology will be applied to all areas of Seoul in 2012 and expanded to 23 cities nationwide including metropolitan cities by early 2013.
SK Telecom already embedded the MC feature in Vega Racer 2 released in May 2012 and is currently in talks with device manufacturers to include MC as a basic feature for LTE smartphones. Upon commercialization of the MC service in July, users of Vega Racer 2 can receive automatic firmware upgrade by authorizing the process via responding to the text message sent to them.
※ MC service does not support existing LTE devices due to differences in frequency bands
■ Use of 1.8GHz to help spread LTE roaming service
The use of 1,8GHz frequency band will allow SK Telecom to offer LTE roaming service in many different countries. Currently, around 10 countries in Asia and Europe have chosen the 1.8GHz band for LTE services and it is expected that more and more operators around the world will use 1.8GHz, a GSM frequency band, for LTE.
Furthermore, the use of the 1.8GHz, the mainstream frequency spectrum for global LTE deployment, will boost the adoption of diverse LTE devices and network equipment, thereby allowing the company to secure differentiated competitiveness to maintain its unrivalled leadership in the Korean market.
Kwon Hyuk-Sang, Executive Vice President and Head of Network Division at SK Telecom said, “SK Telecom will provide the fastest and the most reliable LTE service through the world’s first adoption of the innovative Multi Carrier technology that allows for the use of twice wider frequency bandwidth than its competitors in Korea. Building on this milestone, SK Telecom will maintain its efforts to keep setting new standards for excellence in LTE services.”