A new Korean report today claims that SK Telecom and Apple are expected to unveil an LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) phone in the coming months. LTE-A is an upgraded version of LTE (long-term evolution), which is a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data for handsets. One SK Telecom executive, requesting anonymity stated that "SK Telecom is approaching Apple to put our LTE-A technology on their upcoming iPhone 5S. We are in the middle of negotiations." The better news however, is that US carriers are also preparing for LTE-A for later this year which means that we may all benefit from Apple's next generation iPhone. That would be a nice surprise. Report Updated July 02.
The new "LTE – A" standard will enable customers to use the next iPhone to download data at a speed of 150Mbps, twice as fast as its predecessor. According to industry sources, Apple intends to use Korea as the litmus test to gauge the marketability of LTE-A technology in future markets such as China.
Apple has to forge ahead with LTE-A in Korea if they're to compete with Samsung who signed on with SK Telecom last week and LG is likely to be next.
"With the help of Apple," stated one telecom official, "SK Telecom can take a lead in the race for LTE-A devices while Apple can seek breakthroughs to advance their base of customers in Korea.
Apple has had a hard time cracking the Korean market. In October Apple fired their South Korean Manager Dominique Oh over sluggish sales results. A next generation iPhone based LTE-A in Korea will provide Apple with an opportunity to gain market share in a tough market over the next few years.
The better news, according to Digital Trends, is that Verizon is already saying it will start offering LTE-A "soon," while AT&T claims it's coming during the second half of the year. Others like T-Mobile and Sprint have yet to unveil their plans on this new standard.
Update July 02: This supports a recent ABI study that stated that "North America will be the most aggressive LTE-A market, followed by Asia-Pacific and Western Europe. ABI Research predicts North America will commercially launch LTE-A by the end of 2013 and mobile subscriptions will approach 220 million by 2018, contributing 44% of the global LTE-A market. “All the major US mobile operators in the United States have shown their commitment to LTE-Advanced, and LTE-Advanced upgrades are underway,”
So the news of an iPhone with Advanced LTE may not be limited to the Korean market. With demanding web services like live-TV and FaceTime video conferencing, the faster the network is, the better it'll be for all of us.