Spend a few weeks with an LTE-equipped smartphone in an area with good LTE coverage and one quickly adapts to the responsiveness and performance of the network. It changes behaviour: those application software updates that you would usually wait until you arrived home to run over your WiFi, or perhaps making or receiving a call using VoIP, where again you might wait because your fixed line broadband connection was more stable. These limits are gone and suddenly your smartphone feels more useful. After time with the higher performance network, going back to a 3G-only device (or moving to an area without LTE and relying on 3G) can feel painfully slow. Indeed, as we move to higher categories of LTE radios, so normal category one LTE feels sluggish and unresponsive. And now that Korea's main telecommunication service company, KT, is about to commercialize Giga-LTE, it seems that for a some customers at least, Category 4 LTE is going to be slow.
Giga-LTE is the name given to the technology that combines current generation LTE networks with high performance WiFi connections. The wireless technology offers gigabyte speed, hence the name, but it also brings us one performance notch closer to 5G networking speeds. Currently, KT's Giga-LTE has a maximum data transfer speed of 1.17 Gbps, which is some fifteen times quicker than the existing LTE network and four times quicker than the tri-band LTE-Advanced, already deployed in some parts of Korea and using carrier aggregation to achieve the high data speeds. To put this data transfer speed into perspective, KT explained that customers would be able to download an 3 GB of music across one hundred files in twenty one seconds. This compared with twenty eight seconds for tri-band LTE-Advanced to download 1 GB of data. When it comes to movies, a 18 GB UHD (ultra high definition) film took a little over two minutes.
KT has been working in conjunction with Samsung since last September in order to introduce Giga-LTE and it's perhaps no surprise that a Samsung device will be the first to benefit from the new technology: the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will be able to use Giga-LTE starting next week via a firmware upgrade. KT explain that the high performance technology will be rolled out to other devices over the coming months but did not provide a device plan and timescale. KT is in competition with another large Korean carrier, SK Telecom, which announced in May that they had succeeded in combining LTE and WiFi together and were working on the commercial application, which would be ready soon. Meanwhile, KT is planning on opening the "5G Test Bed" in July at their research and development centre in Seoul, a driving force to secure more 5G technologies and work towards standardization. KT is planning to provide a trials service in time for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics.