Following on from our LTE at MWC round-up from last week, I thought we’d go into a little bit more depth on what SK Telecom is doing. Why? Because SK Telecom is one of the world leaders in LTE. According to Informa WCIS stats, as of December 2012 South Korea leads the way with LTE with 32.5% of all subscribers in the country using LTE. It has 7.5m of its subscribers on LTE subscriptions, some 25% of its total user base and it hopes that by the end of 2013 that will go up to 60%. It’s an ambitious figure but it does enjoy coverage of 98% of the country.

When you consider that in the UK, O2 has just been awarded the licence for 800MHz spectrum with an obligation to provide 98% coverage, the difference is stark. In a nutshell, South Korea is way ahead.

Clearly it is in its interests to get everybody across to LTE as soon as possible. It will want to recoup those investments it’s made in LTE and the more people move across the sooner it can leverage the benefits of the lower cost-per-bit of LTE.

If you want to know more about SK Telecom’s latest LTE advances first-hand, Dr Byun Jae-woan is speaking at the LTE World Summit in June. Click here to download a flyer for the event.

No surprise then that at Mobile World Congress SK Telecom said that it would be taking things to the next level and demoing LTE Advanced, with plans to commercialise it in the second half of 2013. After all with strong competitors in the form of KT Corp and LG U+ it can’t afford to rest on its laurels.

The LTE Advanced it showed at MWC consisted of ‘Super Cell’, a concept that uses cell virtualisation to improve network capacity by reducing inter-cell interference. It also helps to ensure better call handovers between cells. It’s still possible to get cut off when travelling between cells today so that’s a welcome improvement.

Top speed is the big news though and the LTE Advanced solution can comfortably deliver 150Mbps to a handset.  A 1.4GB HD movie would download in just 75 seconds SK Telecom is pleased to tell us. (Thunk. Don’t worry, that’s just the sound of someone who’s just signed up to EE on a 500MB cap hitting the floor after fainting).

LTE. It's fast in a completely different way to a McLaren F1.

LTE. It’s fast in a completely different way to a McLaren F1. (See below)

SK also demonstrated VoLTE, which the company has successfully deployed. This is in large part thanks to its widespread LTE coverage layer, which means it doesn’t have to worry about the tricky business of handing over calls to 2G or 3G.

Another good news story for LTE from the house of SK, was that it announced that it had an impressive one million users on its Joyn.T application, all garnered in just 50 days since its launch in December 2012.

Joyn.T, is the RCS-based offering created by operator in a bid to give them a tool to be the OTT guys such as Skype and WhatsApp. It’s good news for the Joyn backers the GSMA, which had to contend with Deutsche Telekom announcing that it was delaying its Joyn deployment for more extensive testing.

On the infrastructure side the news was the SK Telecom was working with Nokia Siemens Networks, the struggling telecoms infrastructure vendor that has seen resurgence in recent months.  NSN was boasting of its so called ‘Liquid Application’ technology, the main thrust of which is essentially to put more intelligence into the base stations in a bid to improve latency. This is a good move.

What many people don’t realise is the latency enhancements in LTE are where most of the real world perceived benefits come from. It’s all about responsiveness. Poor latency is like turbo lag in a car on a race track full of cars. If you have to wait for ages for the boost to come in, and you don’t have long stretches of road ahead of you to make use of that top speed you’re going to lose out to more nimbler connections with lower top speeds but faster responding turbos.

If that seems a little confused it’s because the parallel occurred to me as was failing to leave slower cars behind despite driving a McLaren F1. (In the Xbox 360 game Forza 4 that is – I don’t own a McLaren F1 in real life you probably won’t be surprised to know). It was the laggy turbo in the F1 you see, and the track didn’t let me go above fourth gear at any point, so despite its 240 mph top speeds its potential bandwidth couldn’t help me. Much like a high bandwidth connection with low latency. If NSN’s Liquid Application can improve latency and top speed, it’s the best of both worlds.

SK Telecom has been boosting its backend bandwidth too though, with the announcement in January that it would be moving from 40G to 100G upgrades, giving it 8Tbps to play with on its optical network.

dr_byun

SK Telcoms’s CTO and Head of Future Technology R&D Division Byun Jae-Woan

Other interesting developments that came out of MWC this year for SK Telecom were its indoor location positioning technology, its innovative healthcare solutions such as Smartcase that used mobile connectivity to send medical information to doctors remotely, and FREND, which provide on-site diagnosis of major diseases and send that information again for 3G or 4G.

However, for SK Telecom I’d say MWC 2013 was mainly about LTE. The GSMA certainly thought so and here is a picture of SK’s CTO and Head of Future Technology R&D Division Byun Jae-Woan, proudly displaying the award the operator won from the Global Mobile Awards 2013 for the 4G LTE with PETA Solution – a cocktail of technologies to improve LTE performance involving multi carriers, femtocells, VoLTE, SON and Advanced Smart Cloud Access networks.

 

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