Korean operator SK Telecom has taken the wraps off the world’s first LTE-Advanced network which went live in Seoul and two other cities. The service will offer speeds of up to 150 Mbps and compatibility for Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 LTE-A smartphone, which launched today.
SK says its network is double the speed of its LTE service (which it has run for two years), and a whopping ten times faster than a standard 3G network. The firm says a 800MB movie can be downloaded in less than a minute — it claims 43 seconds but that is, of course, subject to real-world conditions.
The new service is operational in Seoul and a further 42 cities across the Gyeonggi-do and Chungcheong-do districts. The company says it will expand that to cover 82 cities nationwide, but it does not provide a timeframe for that.
There’s good news for customers since SK says the new LTE-A service will be priced at the same rate as its regular LTE payment plans. It remains to be seen if that is an initial sweetener and whether the cost will rise in time.
As you might expect — given we’re talking about Korea and LTE-Advanced — SK is also launching the Samsung Galaxy S4-A (the high-speed version of the flagship smartphone) in the country alongside its new super fast network. The operator says it has an initial batch of 20,000 units, it’ll be interesting to see if that sells out, and how quickly.
Samsung chief JK Shin had already confirmed the device, but today the firm made it officially official when it published details of the phone, which will sport a Qualcomm-made 2.3GHz quad core processor and 2,600mAh battery.
For now, with no overseas network support, the ultra-fast Galaxy S4 is strictly Korea-only where it is initially available in Blue Arctic and Red Aurora — giving it even greater show-off value.
Back to SK, which is making a big content push, and it talks up a range of multimedia-led services that tie in to the LTE-A network. A new HD video-based shopping service will launch in August, offering device owners six channels to view on the go, and plenty of existing services will get a refresh.
Upgraded versions of its group video calling product, IPTV service, live baseball TV service, MelOn music player and multimedia content service will each sport new features that tap into the faster data network. Most notably, SK says the ‘Btv mobile’ IPTV service will hit (another) world-first milestone when it introduces live HD video streaming from next month.
Commenting on the new network and service, Park In-sik, President of Network Business Operations at SK Telecom said:
SK Telecom is proud to announce the world’s first commercialization of LTE-A. By supporting twice faster speeds than LTE, LTE-A will not only enhance customers’ satisfaction in network quality, but also give birth to new mobile value added services that can bring innovative changes to our customers’ lives.
The company’s announcement certainly goes to great lengths to emphasis that this is a world-first — “no carrier, besides SK Telecom, has yet reached the goal by launching LTE-A network through LTE-A compatible phone” — and it will be interesting to see which global operator follows SK, and how the service is adopted in smartphone-crazy Korea.