What is LTE?

Written by on May 21, 2012 in Lifestyle

Korea is known for many things around the world. Ask anyone what they know about Korea and most often you’ll get replies about K-Pop, kimchi, and dramas. In gaming circles, Korea is known for its fascination with online creations, such as StarCraft. It’s this latter love that helped develop the nation’s amazing Internet infrastructure. Most homes enjoy blazing fast connections nearing 100Mbs (megabits per second), a speed most other countries may see a decade from now. However, this speed isn’t limited to wired computers, Korea has now rolled out LTE and promoting its increased speed over current 3G mobile data connections, but just what is it?

Countries with LTE Service. Image Credit: Frank Bennett

Key Specifics
LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a new standard for wireless communication, boasting high-speed data for mobile phones and data terminals. It’s built upon GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA technologies. The standard is technically called 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), but marketed throughout the world as 4G LTE.  TeliaSonera in Oslo and Stockholm launched the first LTE service in 2009. LTE is an upgrade for carriers and will most likely serve as a global mobile phone standard. However, since LTE operates on several different frequency bands (currently standing at six slices), only multi-band phones will be able to take advantage of said networks when traveling.

The goal of the LTE initiative was to increase the capacity and speed of wireless data networks using new techniques developed more than a decade ago. It was also hoped that this new network would simplify carrier network structure while allowing greater speeds. However, because of the mechanics of the LTE system, is incompatible with 2G and 3G networks, thus requiring it to operate in another wireless spectrum. Therefore, to create LTE networks, carriers had to install a completely new infrastructure.

Speed
Probably the biggest draw to consumers in Korea (and around the world) is the potential for mobile data speed. In testing, LTE developers claimed to achieve download speeds of 300Mbs and upload speeds approaching 75Mbs, depending on network traffic and equipment. Since 2011, South Korean carriers have been rolling out their LTE networks. By March 2012, all three (KT, SK, and LG) have provided nationwide coverage and delivered their promise of faster connections. Comparing all carriers, we see data transfer speeds between 15Mbs and 50 Mbs for downloads, which simply put, is amazing. The above graphic was taken after a test in Gangnam and posts an impressive 22Mbs download speed.

Some will ask, “Why this is important?” It’s a fair question and its answer revolves around how content is consumed today. In the age of social media and never-ending news cycles, the average person views more content online than ever before. Gaming industry executives have commented in the past about the rise of the mobile phone as a gaming platform. Now that devices have large screens (like the Samsung Galaxy Note), the need to treat these smart phones as mobile computers has arisen. Already, websites are seeing an increase in mobile traffic, and that will only increase. Consumers are demanding the same experience on their phones they have on their desktops. The only way to achieve that is to widen the “pipe” and allow more traffic. LTE is the way to achieve this. In the next few years, we’ll see the roll-out of LTE Advance, the next upgrade to the network, which will offer greater stability and speed. In short, we are living in an age where all the speed and power of the Internet can fit squarely in palm of our hand… and with it, all the information and entertainment our minds can handle.

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About the Author

Steve Miller

Steve Miller, the QiRanger, is Korea’s best-known travel video blogger-journalist. His videos have been viewed by millions and seen on media outlets in throughout the word. In addition to sharing his entertaining and informative videos, he writes about life abroad and releases a popular podcast. Steve appears regularly on international radio stations, talking about travel, Korean culture and East Asian news. He’s also appeared on Arirang Television sharing unique aspects of Korean life. You can follow Steve on Twitter @QiRanger or visit his site QiRanger.com.