Samsung's Galaxy S4 doubles download speeds on LTE-Advanced network

Brings updated S4 to South Korea this month; U.S. carrier networks not yet ready for any device that supports speedy LTE-Advanced technology

Samsung plans to begin selling a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone capable of supporting LTE-Advanced 4G networks -- which offer download speeds that are twice as fast as LTE -- in South Korea this month.

No U.S. wireless carrier is implementing LTE-Advanced yet, though all four major carriers have expressed interest in the technology or have described plans to offer the faster speeds as early as later this year.

The four major U.S. carriers (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile USA) are provisioning or have recently provisioned LTE (Long Term Evolution) network switching gear and antennas nationwide that generally provide average downlink speeds of 10Mbps.

None of the four major U.S. carriers responded Monday to a request for information on their plans for LTE-Advanced networks.

Samsung is working with Qualcomm on LTE-Advanced chips for the GS4, said JK Shin, co-chief executive of Samsung Electronics, in an interview with Reuters in South Korea.

Shin told Reuters, in a story posted early today, that Samsung is talking to carriers outside of South Korea to sell the LTE-Advanced GS4. He refused to disclose the carriers Samsung is talking to.

He also claimed that Samsung will be the first manufacturer to sell a commercial version of an LTE-Advanced smartphone.

Shen told Reuters that a three-minute download of a movie using current LTE technology would take just over a minute on an LTE-Advanced network.

He did add that a Galaxy S4 that supports LTE-Advanced will be slightly more expensive than the LTE version.

Shin claimed sales of the GS4 "remain strong," and have been thus far stronger than the GS III. The smartphone became available in April. He appeared to be reacting to analyst forecasts that demand for the Galaxy S4 is lagging.

After those analyst forecasts appeared earlier this month, shares of Samsung stock quickly dived by 6% and the company's market value has dropped by nearly $20 billion since June 7.

The addition of LTE-Advanced to the GS4 is another example of how phone makers must constantly improve hardware and software to keep customers interested in a smartphone market that has become saturated.

LTE-Advanced has been on the minds of smartphone chip makers for months.

Nvidia, for instance, downloaded 150Mbps in a prototype LTE-Advanced smartphone running over a Tegra 4i chip at the May CTIA trade show in Las Vegas. Broadcom in February showed off a BCM21892 modem that supports LTE-Advanced and ST-Ericsson is developing an LTE-Advanced chip.

According to the 3GPP, a standards body, the top theoretical downlink data rate from LTE-Advanced networks is 3Gbps, while the uplink is 1.5Gbps. For LTE, the theoretical down and up rates are 300Mbps and 170Mbps, respectively. However, the speeds are much lower for practical uses.

A 20,000-mile road test of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless networks by PC Magazine found an average downlink speed of 15.24Mbps over AT&T's LTE network in Atlanta, and 11.27Mbps over the Verizon network in Los Angeles.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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