First step for SK Telecom’s ambitions for national 4G LTE network

04 July 2011 |


SK Telecom has turned to Samsung Electronics to deploy the country’s first 4G LTE network in the capital, Seoul.

The new network, Korea’s first commercial LTE service, is a sign of the huge growth taking place in the Korean telecoms market. According to SK Telecom, the amount of data traffic it is handling each month has increased by an enormous 19 times since August 2010, largely due to the spread of smart devices.

And as the company describes its LTE service as “five to seven times faster than existing 3G networks”, it is no surprise it believes that LTE holds the answers to the explosion in data traffic.

SK Telecom is predicting 300,000 LTE subscribers by the end of 2011, growing to 10 million users by 2015; and it projects that around 65% of its data traffic will be handled by LTE networks by 2014.

Joondong Bae, president and head of network business at SK Telecom, spoke of the company’s desire “to build a seamless and flawless 4G LTE network that can complement our existing 3G WCDMA network”.

SK Telecom’s first commercial LTE network in Seoul deploys over 1,700 radio units and 609 digital units, as well as using the company’s 200,000 existing 800MHz repeaters to offer 4G LTE service in all areas of Seoul, including underground and indoors. It is also using co-ordinated multi-point (CoMP) technology to prevent decline of data speed in coverage boundary areas.

SK Telecom held initial tests of the 4G LTE network in April 2011. In the early stages of transfer to an LTE service, SK Telecom’s objective is to provide differentiated service quality. It has adopted Samsung’s Smart LTE solution, which will enable it “to effectively handle variable mobile data traffic, through separate allocation and operation of LTE network elements as occasion demands”.

The launch will be followed by a roll-out in 23 other Korean cities, including the Seoul metropolitan area, by early 2012. National coverage of a total of 82 cities is forecast for 2013, though it believes “this could become a reality earlier than planned depending on the market situation”.

The plans should not really come as a surprise. As recently as March 2011, South Korea topped the new worldwide government broadband index, based on government planning for next-generation broadband, rather than current broadband capability (see here for more details).