Samsung Electronics Co. is set to launch new versions of the Galaxy S4 and S4 Mini that can switch between two different types of high-speed LTE networks, making data downloads even faster for users. But with the rest of the world still waiting to get on the LTE bandwagon, it?s doubtful the dual-network function would be widely used anytime soon.
The majority of global networks that use Long Term Evolution technology use the Frequency Division Duplex or FDD-LTE variant, Samsung said in a statement. The alternative technology, called TDD-LTE or Time Division Duplex LTE, is expected to gain traction in China, the U.S. and some parts of Europe, the South Korean smartphone maker said.
In theory, having handsets that can switch between both types of LTE connections would help mobile operators create a faster network environment by reallocating data traffic from one LTE network to another. But gaining critical mass is one big hurdle. Samsung has already introduced Galaxy S4 phones that can run on LTE-Advanced networks, but these networks are only available in South Korea.
?The alternative LTE network allows operators to use the limited number of available frequencies in a more efficient way,? said J.K. Shin, Samsung?s mobile chief. He added the increased adoption of the new technology will help meet the increasing demand for faster Internet connection through mobile devices. Samsung didn?t give a specific launch date for the dual-LTE phones.
In a bid to keep a competitive edge in the smartphone race, Samsung has been investing in even faster network technologies, claiming in May that it has made a breakthrough in developing mobile technology for fifth-generation networks, which are?expected to succeed the current LTE networks.?But potential commercialization of 5G networks is still years away, while any forecast on them in comparison to existing 3G and 4G technologies wouldn?t be more than guess work, analysts say.
?The new function seems to be targeted mainly for China,? where the alternative LTE network service is expected to take off the fastest, said C.W. Chung, an analyst with Nomura.
Research firm IHS expects LTE subscriptions worldwide to reach 198.1 million in 2013, more than doubling from 92.3 million last year. That compares with an estimated 900 million smartphone shipments for this year globally, according to analysts.
In June, IHS analyst Wayne Lam forecast 3G networks to remain the dominant technology for the foreseeable future, at least up to 2017.