Wednesday, June 20, 2012

SK Telecom Plans VoLTE for Q3, LTE-Advanced in 2013

SK Telecom announced plans to support a high-quality VoLTE service in Q3 across Korea and to deliver up to 150Mbps data rates using LTE-Advanced in the second half of 2013. In a press conference earlier this week, Bae Joon-Dong, President of Network Operations Business of SK Telecom, said a new era of "LTE 2.0" will be marked by innovative services.

SK Telecom had 2.4 million LTE subscribers and a total base of more than 26 million mobile subscribers as of the end of April. This makes SK Telecom the second largest LTE service provider in the world after Verizon Wireless. The company expects to surpass 3.4 million LTE subscribers by the end of June in just a year since launching Korea's first LTE service in July 1, 2011. The company expects the number of cumulative LTE subscribers to exceed 7 million by the end of 2012.

Some highlights:

SK Telecom's LTE network covers 99% of the population. SK Telecom has been deploying LTE even in small towns and townships. It has already completed building LTE network in more than 84 major cities (plus railroads and highways), covering 95 percent of the population, in April 2012 through early execution of LTE network investment.

The company plans to introduce a Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Rich Communication Suite (RCS) to be named "HD Voice" in the third quarter of this year. HD Voice is a premium communication service that offers voice, video and data in an integrated manner. Compared to the existing 3G voice call, it offers up to 2.2 times better sound quality and twice faster call connection speed (requires less than 0.3 ~ 2.5 seconds of call connecting time). HD Voice enables users to switch from a voice call to video any time during a call, and share content like photos and video with the person on the other end of the phone. The strength of HD Voices lies in that it can be further upgraded with the addition of new value and diverse features.

SK Telecom said it has employed state-of-the-art network technologies to ensure the best quality HD Voice service over LTE. In particular, the service will use QCI (QoS Class Identifier) technology to prioritize 'HD Voice' signals over other signals.

Although HD Voice is a premium version that offers differentiated value, the company plans to apply its current pay-per-second billing system to minimize customers' cost burden and promote service use. Details of service rates will be published later.

The RCS service enables integrated use of features like voice call, SMS, chatting, file-sharing through diverse networks and devices. The company will first integrate its messaging services such as SMS into an RCS service and provide differentiated service quality leveraging reliability and stability, the core strengths of mobile carriers, and plans to develop RCS into a next-generation integrated communication platform by expanding RCS-capable devices, securing fixed-mobile interworking, and converging RCS with HD Voice and other new services. The company plans to launch its RCS service in the second half of this year after building a detailed service structure and billing systems.

SK Telecom is preparing to release various lifestyle-enhancing services – in the areas of network games, mobile IPTV, etc. over its LTE network. The company is partnering with Korean game developers to optimized games over LTE (e.g. Genesis, Cart Rider Rush+, Blue Moon, etc.).

SK Telecom will also release a mobile IPTV service called 'Mobile B TV' in July. The service boasts high definition resolution at 1Mbps, which is the highest image quality realized for mobile IPTV service in Korea. Mobile B TV will provide around 40 channels including terrestrial broadcast channels, general programming and sports channels, and offer convenient features like reservation and notification.

SK Telecom will strengthen productivity-improving enterprise solutions specialized to run on LTE networks. Currently, the company is offering smart device-based customized enterprise solutions designed to suit the nature of each industry and company by leveraging the strength of LTE network.

In January 2012, SK Telecom achieved the world's first commercialization of Advanced-SCAN (Smart Cloud Access Network), an upgraded version of SCAN, which has been developed to enhance LTE speed and coverage. Advanced-SCAN uses virtualization technology to ensure four times better call quality in base station boundary areas, thereby improving the overall LTE coverage and speed.

SK Telecom commercialized world's first LTE Femtocell on June 1 to provide stable LTE call quality in underground, buildings and data traffic concentrated areas. With LTE Femtocell, customers can use high speed, premium quality LTE services anywhere, anytime.

SK Telecom's LTE network will be further upgraded with multi-carrier (MC), HIS (Hybrid Network Integrated Solution) and LTE-A. The MC technology will enable the company to utilize both its existing 800MHz frequency band and the 1.8GHz band it newly acquired in the second half of last year. With an additional 20MHz uplink/downlink spectrum, it will be using a total of 40MHz for its LTE services. SK Telecom began offering MC pilot service in the Gangnam Station area from May 30 and commercialization of MC will begin in July 2012, with plans to cover the whole Seoul area within 2012 and 23 other major cities by early 2013.

The company also said that it will achieve world's first commercialization of HIS that enables simultaneous use of LTE and Wi-Fi networks in the fourth quarter of this year. Hybrid Network provides data rates of up to 127 Mbps (LTE 75Mbps + Wi-Fi 52Mbps), which is 70 percent faster than that of current LTE network.

SK Telecom plans to commercialize Carrier Aggregation (CA), a core LTE-A technology that doubles data transmission speed by utilizing two different frequency bands, in the second half of 2013. CA realizes data rates of up to 150Mbps by combining the speeds of 800MHz (75Mbps) and 1.8GHz (75Mbps) frequency bands.

LTE customers are using around 1.7GB of data on average per month, which is approximately 60 percent more than that of 3G customers, which stands at 1GB.

  • In May, Ericsson announced that SK Telecom, South Korea's largest operator, had signed a contract for LG-Ericsson to provide the LTE network including LTE RAN and Evolved Packet Core as well as support services including engineering, design, deployment and support services. The LTE radio access network will make use of Ericsson's Operation Support System for Radio & Core (OSS-RC) and RBS 6000 base stations. The contract, which covers commercial launch of LTE services in some of Korea's major cities - including Busan and Daegu, makes Ericsson one of the operator's main partners. Financial terms were not disclosed.