Can a Korean Expansion Give Apple a Much-Needed Boost?

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is working with Korea’s SK Telecom (NYSE:SKM) to release an LTE-Advanced iPhone in the coming months. The news comes after Apple’s biggest rival, Samsung Electronics (SSNLF.PK) introduced its own LTE-A phone last week.

The telecom company has approached Apple to put its LTE-A technology into the new iPhone 5S. LTE-Advanced (LTE stands for long-term evolution) networks can allow users to download at speeds twice as fast as regular LTE networks. LTE-A carrier aggregation gives users the ability to combine radio channels across different bands and simultaneously download information via two or more LTE radio channels. Regular LTE networks only allow for downloads from one channel at a time.

MacRumors pointed out that even though the theoretical maximum download speed for LTE-A networks is 150 Mbps, which is twice as fast as regular LTE networks, real-world speeds are generally much slower than theoretical maximums. The site also suggested that Apple would not have an LTE-A capable iPhone 5S ready so soon after beginning talks with SK Telecom. Even if Apple has been working on developing the technology, the site believes that it would be longer than “the coming months” the press release promised to see an LTE-A capable iPhone.

U.S. telecom company Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) has already enabled LTE-A technology for the advanced version of the Samsung Galaxy 4S smartphone on one of its processors. While networks have yet to upgrade to LTE-A, it’s expected that the upgrade will happen much faster than the one to 4G LTE. Samsung and Apple are both working to get ready for the switch, but so far Samsung’s ahead of the game.

“Thanks to the Qualcomm technology, Apple can release i-devices globally without the time gap. This is a win-win strategy. With the help of Apple, SK Telecom can take a lead in the race for LTE-A and Apple can seek breakthroughs in its stalling phone business,” said a source at the telecom company.

Samsung and Apple are the two biggest smartphone makers in the world, and have been competing against each other for dominance in the U.S. and abroad. While some are saying that seeing an LTE-A iPhone 5S in the next few months is an optimistic estimate, the longer Apple takes to develop and release the phone, the more ground the company will lose to Samsung.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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