SK Telecom hopes to launch three-band carrier aggregation (CA) next year, a move that will increase the peak throughput of its LTE-A network to 300 Mbps.

A source with knowledge of the matter told Total Telecom on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress this week that the timeframe for launching three-band CA depends on the availability of compatible chipsets that can be used for handsets, tablets and dongles. However, the operator has previously stated that it expects compatible chipsets to become available before the end of the year.

"There is a limit to the amount of spectrum that SK Telecom can use," the source said. "Launching three-band carrier aggregation will allow customers to experience much greater speeds and higher capacity."

SK Telecom has been sharing plans to upgrade its LTE-A network to three-band CA for a number of months. It plans to combine 10 MHz of 800-MHz spectrum with 20 MHz of 1800-MHz spectrum and 10 MHz of 2.1-GHz spectrum.

Until now, SK Telecom has used its 2.1-GHz frequencies for 3G services, but earlier in February it was granted permission to refarm 10 MHz of 2.1-GHz spectrum for its LTE-A network.

Before it gets to three-band CA though, SK Telecom is increasing the amount of 1800-MHz spectrum it currently uses for its LTE-A network from 10 MHz to 20 MHz, giving it a theoretical peak speed of 225 Mbps.

At a press conference late Tuesday, SK Telecom CEO Sung Min Ha said the 225-Mbps network will be ready for commercial service during the first half of 2014 and will launch as soon as devices become available.

SK Telecom switched on the world's first commercial LTE-Advanced network in June 2013. Since then, 2 million of its customers have upgraded to the new network.

In the months leading up to the launch, the telco was in talks with Samsung about its first LTE-A device. Within six months of the network's launch, SK Telecom's LTE-A device portfolio increased to 11.

It goes without saying then that once the first compatible device becomes available, many more will follow.