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WiMax? We prefer not to mention it nowadays

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SK Telecom will be rolling out an Long Term Evolution (LTE) network later this year, despite being one of the earliest supporters of the WiMAX standard, which itself is about to hit version two.

802.16m is the technical term for version two of WiMAX, offering speeds up to 100Mb/sec on the move, and 1Gb/sec for fixed links, over a 20MHz frequency – twice that of today's WiMAX. The new standard and should get IEEE approval in March, with the technical side being wrapped up in Taipei this week according to Daily Wireless, but that's all moot if the standard gets supplanted by competing 4G spec LTE – which is what SK Telecom has said it would be deploying this year.

SK Telecom hasn't said it will be walking away from WiMAX, but the company's "New Strategic Direction" makes no reference to it at all, only stating that it will have LTE coverage in the capital (Seoul) by the end of the year, and plans to set up a load of WiFi points as well as investing heavily in femtocell technology.

WiMAX deployment was heavily backed by the South Korean government, which allocated 100MHz of spectrum to the technology in 2002. Unwilling to wait for the standard to go mobile (as it did in 2005), the Korean networks created a variation called WiBro that can be used on the move and these days boasts coverage approaching national, despite being a proprietary technology.

But even Korea Telecom, the second-biggest operator – whose WiBro network is expected to cover the whole of South Korea by March this year – is planning to spend more than £900m building an LTE network in the country, as the economies of scale (in terms of devices and infrastructure) make the dominant standard inescapable. ®

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