SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest mobile operator, claimed a world first with the commercial launch of LTE-Advanced services providing (theoretical peak) download speeds of up to 225 Mb/s through the use of carrier aggregation.

The existing LTE-Advanced network provided by SK allowed for peak download speeds of up to 150 Mb/s, but by combining 20 MHz of bandwidth from the 1.8GHz band and 10MHz from the 800MHz band, a significant boost was achieved.

Customers will not be charged extra to use the faster services. Optional data plans will also be made available for subscribers wanting to access more diverse content without a higher bill.

The new high-speed network is currently live in Seoul and other metropolitan cities, with all areas with either 20MHz LTE or LTE-Advanced services covered from July. SK said the launch takes it a step closer to three-band LTE-Advanced.

The new (theoretical) maximum speed is three times that of the 75 Mb/s supported by LTE and 15 times the speed offered by 3G. At peak speed SK Telecom claims customers can download a 1GB movie in 37 seconds.

South Korea’s largest operator launched LTE-Advanced a year ago and LTE in July 2011. The launch of the 225 Mb/s LTE-Advanced technology means SK is the first operator to offer such rapid data speeds.

Lee Jong-bong, head of SK’s network division, said the introduction of the service “will pave the way for Korea to open up an era of 5G in the future”.

The operator launched a number of new services to take advantage of the faster network speeds, including the Angles social multimedia service, which allows HD video files from four different users to be edited into a single file in the cloud before being shared on smartphones.

Cloud Game, a cloud-based streaming game platform, will be unveiled next week, while SK is also ramping its video content through its B tv mobile offering.

In addition, a new version of the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone that will support 225 Mb/s LTE-Advanced has been introduced to support the launch.

LG Uplus, South Korea’s third-largest mobile operator, also has three-band CA ambitions for LTE-Advanced.

Speaking at Mobile Asia Expo last week, Dongmyun Lee, CTO of South Korean number two operator KT, said that with high bandwidth mobile broadband and unlimited data plans offered by all three operators in South Korea, operators need to take new approaches to differentiate themselves.

For its part, KT is looking at a range of converged services that make use of its network and platforms, around transport, energy, media, integrated safety and life-enhancing care.