South Korea’s mobile broadband puts our 4G to shame (Wired UK)


Jeremy White


Even though we are still very much in the earlier stages of
adoption for 4G/LTE here in Europe, mainly due to high tariffs,
limited data plans and inconsistent coverage, it comes as no
surprise that one country is leading the way with mobile
technology. In fact, it has already moved on from LTE to the next
level.

South Korea now boasts nearly 99 percent coverage for LTE (Long
Term Evolution) networks. Anyone who has tried to rely on
consistent 4G coverage in the UK, even in the capital, will note
that statistic with envy.

When Wired visited Seoul, the obvious advances over the UK
networks included LTE coverage not only above but below ground, so
commuters can stream media and surf the web on devices rather than
rely on data stored on handsets.

This shift to cloud-based applications and services has had a
huge impact on the Korean networks as demand for data has jumped by
a factor of 300 to 400.


Jeremy White


To cope with this ever-increasing appetite for data, networks
have already rolled out LTE A, or LTE Advanced
technology. LTE uses a single 850MHz carrier with 10MHz bandwidth
and a maximum download of 75Mbps. LTE A uses two carriers on 850MHz
and 1.8GHz with 10MHz + 20MHz bandwidth (totalling 30MHz). This
allows the maximum download speeds to jump to a scorching
225Mbps.

To give you some idea of those speeds in reality, that’s about
28 seconds to download a full movie on the move. Wired, using
Qualcomm-supplied LTE Category 6 versions of LG G3 and Samsung
Galaxy S5 handsets (capable of accessing the new LTE A networks)
witnessed download speeds of 115Mbps walking along the street in
the city.

When this technology makes its way to Europe, Category 6 devices
will allow those speeds to theoretically top out at 300Mbps.
Considering most of us are lucky to get 15Mbps on home broadband it
seems clear the significant impact this will have on our mobile
lives.

To manage these speeds and to also allow greater penetration of
signal into buildings, the mobile network providers have had to
shift from an infrastructure of macrocells to small cells, with
base stations that are able to control each other so there is less
overlap in signal and can also allow joint transmission of data,
which is much faster.

A few obvious benefits to consumers with LTE A handsets will be
the capability to stream multiple channels of TV at once to a
screen — if you feel like watching four shows at once, that
is.

LTE Broadcast, which is currently in testing by the BBC, allows
multiple users to view TV channels over a network without
experiencing a drop in speed. The benefits for this application at
sports or music events, for example, with screens showing action
from different perspectives while viewing the live event, is much
more understandable.

VoLTE, or voice over LTE, is also expected to figure heavily
with consumers when LTE A arrives, as the quality of the audio will
be significantly improved. It will also be possible to conduct
group video calls, while sharing device screens. A demonstration
from the LG U+ network showed how this would be particularly useful
when arranging where to meet on the go.

One stumbling block for these advances, and the increased
performance of the handsets themselves, is battery life. You can
barely get a half-day use out of a new smartphone with proper
usage. If we start streaming vast quantities of data all the time,
our poor handsets will never be able to cope with the power
drain.

Enrico Salvatori, senior vice president and president, Qualcomm
Europe, perhaps naturally, thinks processors are the answer: “We
ensure that all key processing components within Snapdragon SoCs
are working efficiently together, maximising performance and power
efficiency (eg, offloading audio playback from the CPU to DSP),
which translates to better power efficiencies and more power
savings for the consumer.”

“Qualcomm also offers Snapdragon BatteryGuru, a downloadable app
that proactively adjusts consumers’ smartphone settings to minimise
unnecessary background activities without disabling features that
make it smart.”

While these efficiencies are certainly welcome, much greater
leaps forward in battery technology will be required by
manufacturers to enable the consumer to enjoy the possibilities of
LTE A networks properly.

However, despite the infancy of LTE A, the Koreans are also well
into testing the capabilities of 5G networks, due in the 2020s. In
trials, one network has already reached download speeds of 3.8Gbps.
Technicians at the LG U+ network went as far as to reveal that the
state wants to show off 5G in two just years: “We are getting a lot
of pressure from the government on this,” said a
representative.

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14 August 2014 | 2:00 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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