South Korea’s largest mobile operator SK Telecom plans to upgrade its LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network to support a theoretical peak download speed of 500Mb/s next month and aims to boost the speed to 1Gb/s in 2019.

The operator said it would first launch the faster LTE service, called LTE-A Pro (and sometimes dubbed 4.5G), in metropolitan areas and expand coverage to 90 per cent of the nation by 2019, with more than 90,000 base stations, the Korea Times reported.

Choi Seung-won, SVP for SKT’s infrastructure strategy division, said that after acquiring additional spectrum in an auction earlier in the month, it will be the only operator in the country to be able to offer five-band carrier aggregation (CA) service.

SKT, with a 49 per cent market share, won two blocks of 60MHz in the 2.6GHz band. KT went home with 20MHz in the 1.8GHz band, while LG Uplus picked up 20MHz of 2.1GHz spectrum.

Choi said SKT will use 4×4 massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and 256QAM technologies with its new 2.6GHz spectrum to boost network speeds, noting the combination of its LTE-A Pro network and five-band CA will enable it to reach 1Gb/s speeds in 2019, according to the Times.

In March SKT announced plans to deploy a nationwide low-power wide area (LPWA) network this year as part of its long-term strategy to support Internet of Things (IoT) services. The operator said it will invest more than KRW100 billion ($84 million) in IoT projects over the next two years.