The Galaxy S8 fever has led to mobile carriers competing for higher speeds. SK Telecom plans to install a service network that can transmit data at 40 percent faster speeds based on its carrier aggregating (CA) technology, which bundles up a number of wireless frequency bands into one, staying ahead of the competition for speeds.
SK Telecom announced it will start applying its five-band CA technology to the Galaxy S8 later next month during a press conference held at the headquarters in Jung-gu, Seoul, on April 20. The maximum speed of its five-band CA technology is 700 megabits per second (Mbps), 40 percent faster than the current LTE network. When downloading 800 megabytes of videos, it takes 7 minutes and 24 seconds on the 3G network and 1 minute and 25 seconds on the first version of LTE network, while it takes 9.2 seconds on SK Telecom’s 4.5G LTE network. The company’s network will be available to its Galaxy 8 users from late May.
Currently, the five-band CA technology is only available on the Galaxy S8 equipped with Samsung Electronics’ own application processor “Exynos 9” for domestic consumers. Samsung Electronics used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset, which supports up to the four-band CA technology, on its latest flagship smartphone for global consumers. Accordingly, SK Telecom will start commercial 4.5G service enabled by five-band carrier aggregation for the first time in the world.
In addition, SK Telecom plans to apply 4x4 multi-antenna reception and transmission technology dubbed MIMO, which doubles data speed, and 256QAM technology, which improves data transmission efficiency by 33 percent, on its four-band and five-band CA technologies. The wireless carrier will commercialize 4.5G service with 900 Mbps internet speed in the latter half of this year by applying three-band CA, double band MIMO and 256QAM technologies. Currently, the MIMO cannot be applied to five-band CA technology due to smartphones’ limit to signal processing functions. The MIMO can be now applied only to the four-band CA technology with one frequency band and to the three-band CA technology with double frequency bands.
SK Telecom expects that it can actualize the 1.2 Gbps internet speed when smartphones’ signal processing functions are upgraded. In fact, it is feasible when applying three MIMOs and 256QAM technologies on the five-band CA technology.
KT and LG U+ also said that they can offer speeds of up to 700Mbps like SK Telecom. KT, which has one wideband frequency range and three narrow band frequencies, can actualize 700Mbp of speeds when applying the MIMO of one frequency band on the four-band CA technology. LG U+, which holds two wideband frequency ranges and one narrow band frequency, can also achieve speeds of up to 700Mbps by applying the MIMO of one frequency band on the three-band CA technology. However, both companies have a smaller range of frequency and bandwidth than SK Telecom. So, they will fall behind in the speed competition when smartphones’ signal processing functions are upgraded.
The speed of 700Mbps will be only available to consumers with Samsung Electronics’ premium smartphones higher than the Galaxy S8 for a while. This is because the 4x4 MIMO can be supported only with the Exynos 9 and Snapdragon 835 AP now. The iPhone 8 to be released in October is expected to support the 4x4 MIMO but it is still unclear that it will support the five-band CA technology.
However, some critics said that the speed competition is just showing off. An official from the telecommunications industry said, “The speed that mobile carriers promise is only available under the optimized environment, so the actual speed should be slower. Most of all, it is only possible with the latest devices so not many consumers can enjoy benefits.”