Although South Korea's spectrum auction earlier this month was anti-climactic with none of the competition that was anticipated for new bandwidth, auction winner SK Telecom is already readying speedier LTE mobile services for next month.
SK Telecom over the weekend said it will launch a new service called LTE-A Pro capable of 500Mbps of downlink throughput and, by 2019, even faster 1-gigabit-per-second (Gbps) downlink. Current LTE speeds are about 150 mbps, with the company calling it a "bridgehead for the development of 5G technology".
This is putting the country's largest carrier, which has upwards of 50 percent market share in the country, in pole position in the intervening years before fifth-generation (5G) mobile service is available. Telcos around the world are saying 5G will be made available no later than 2020.
"SK Telecom will provide LTE-A Pro, which is about 7 times faster than the original LTE service, through its five band carrier aggregation service starting on June 1," Choi Seung-won, senior vice president of SK Telecom's infrastructure strategy division, said.
"With the carrier aggregation (CA) service, LTE-A Pro will be a bridgehead for the development of 5G technology."
SK Telecom can do all of this as a result of scooping up the lion's share of LTE bandwidth up for grabs during the South Korea's frequency auction on May 2. SK Telecom won 50-megahertz of LTE bandwidth, securing a total of 70MHz download bandwidth for faster mobile services.
The company said it would add the latest LTE technologies such as 256 quadrature amplitude modulation and four-by-four multiple-input multiple-output to its 2.6GHz bandwidth to boost network speed. It added that once it was able to provide both the LTE-A Pro and five-band CA technologies it would reach the 1Gbps speed. But top downlink throughput can be further upgraded to 2.7Gbps by combining LTE with Wi-Fi networks.
SK Telecom will launch the faster network service first in the capital city of Seoul by 2018 and expand coverage to 90 percent of the country by the following year with more than 90,000 base stations.
SK Telecom also said it plans finish by the end of June its roll out of low-power, wide area network, called LoRa, for IoT services.