SK Telecom has just announced that they’ve become the world’s first operator to launch a multicarrier LTE network. What the hell does that mean? Here’s our best attempt to explain the news in plain English. Say you like drinking those ridiculously sized sodas that you can get from 7-Eleven. It’s a hot summer day and you want to drink that sugar water as fast as you possibly can. You can do that in one of two ways.
First, you can use a bigger straw. The larger diameter in this case represents a larger chunk of spectrum. Some operators use “straws” that are 10 MHz “wide”, while others who can’t afford as much spectrum use 5 MHz channels. Second, you can use more than one straw, which is what SK Telecom has done. Dual carrier HSPA+ combines two “straws” together, but each of those channels have to be in the same chunk of spectrum. Multicarrier channel bonding is more complex. What SK Telecom did was build an LTE network using two bands: 800 MHz and 1.8 GHz. Today’s announcement is that they can combine “straws” from both those bands into one ultra fast pipe to subscribers.
Got it? Good. Now for the important question, when will this technology be rolled out to your part of the world? AT&T has said that they’re planning on using multicarrier technology, though they failed to mention when. And as for European operators, let’s not even go there. LTE is still considered brand spanking new in the old country. Multicarrier LTE is actually something that we’ll more likely see when LTE-Advanced starts getting deployed, and that’s not expected to happen until at least 2013.
At the end of the day, today’s news doesn’t mean much for most people, but it’s a sign that this LTE stuff is getting more and more advanced with each passing month. That’s something we should all be happy about.