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Could iPhone, Galaxy S4 with LTE-A hit Telstra this year?

With SK Telecom reportedly talking to Apple about LTE-A iPhones, we explore what might be ready for market when Telstra lights up its LTE-A later this year.

With SK Telecom reportedly talking to Apple about LTE-A iPhones, we explore what might be ready for market when Telstra lights up its LTE-A later this year.

New iPhones with LTE-A support would be a big win for Telstra. (Credit: CNET)

According to The Korea Times, Apple has been in talks with South Korea's SK Telecom about a long-term evolution advanced (LTE-A) version of its next-generation iPhone. LTE-A is an upgraded version of LTE that delivers up to 150Mbps download speeds. The talks suggest that SK Telecom is speaking to Apple about including the LTE-A technology.

While it may seem unlikely that Apple would bow to the wishes of a single telco, The Korea Times pointed to Qualcomm already enabling the Samsung Galaxy S4 with an LTE-A chipset, and LTE-A itself aggregates radio channels "within and across bands" to increase network speeds. The iPhone 5 has also already featured a technology that combines radio channels in order to minimise device changes across different network partners and technologies.

So, while chances may seem low for this year, it is possible that this chip change is only a minor update should the right chips be available.

In Australia, Telstra announced a range of ongoing LTE network development and upgrade work back in February. This included trials of LTE-A as well as LTE-Broadcast (LTE-B), a technology for reducing congestion in heavy usage areas.

So how soon will Telstra actually be offering LTE-A?

We contacted Telstra about its progress with LTE-A upgrades to its network. A Telstra spokesperson told CNET Australia, "Telstra is currently trialling LTE-Advanced technology. We remain on track to introduce it later this year, in areas where it makes sense to do so."

Telstra will definitely want to have the latest LTE-A enabled devices available to take advantage of the upgraded network. In its briefings in February, it flagged Sierra Wireless as likely to lead the way with LTE-A USB modems. But what of handsets?

Looking at SK Telecom's current LTE-A offering, we see it already offers the LTE-A-enabled Samsung Galaxy S4 as its flagship device. It's likely that Telstra could also be offering this version of the Galaxy S4 before the end of the year.

Should Telstra get its hands on both an LTE-A Samsung Galaxy S4 and a new iPhone 5S with LTE-A support, it would be quite the Christmas present for Telstra and its smartphone shopping customers.