Samsung is planning to release a variant of the Galaxy S4 that supports LTE Advanced (LTE-A), the next generation of superfast mobile data. The device will come to South Korea within weeks, Samsung Mobile head J.K. Shin tells Reuters. The updated device could prop sales of its flagship up as Apple and other competitors bring new smartphones to the market. J.K. Shin also confirmed Samsung is in talks with "several overseas carriers" to sell the new phone, but refused to confirm where and when the device would go on sale outside of Korea.
LTE Advanced is often called 'true 4G'
Often referred to as "true 4G" — present LTE doesn't meet the original requirements laid out for a next-generation network — LTE-A has been in development for years and is already live in some parts of Russia. The standard has theoretical peak rates of around 3Gbps download and 1.5Gbps upload, but real-world networks will be far slower. Yota, the Russian carrier that was first to launch LTE-A, markets its network as 300Mbps, and the US rollout is expected to be rated at 150Mbps. In preparation for upcoming carrier upgrades, several manufacturers have already announced LTE-A radios for smartphones. Qualcomm, Nvidia, Broadcom, and ST-Ericsson all have chips coming this year that are compatible with the next-gen networks. Those chips won't do much good without a network to access, however, and the LTE-A situation in the US is still a little unclear.
Plans for a US rollout remain unclear
AT&T says LTE Advanced will begin rolling out in the second half of this year, and Verizon plans to add LTE-A to its network through a small-cell AWS network soon. T-Mobile claims it's in a good position to upgrade its fledgling LTE network, but has yet to unveil a firm plan to do so, while Sprint's plans for LTE Advanced are even less clear — it's currently mired in a complex web of mergers and acquisitions. It seems unlikely, then, that Samsung will be able to repeat its achievement of launching the S4 on all major US carriers. We've reached out to Samsung, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile for more information on their plans for the LTE Advanced edition Galaxy S4, and will update you when we hear back.