Whilst the UK government flights with the major carriers including Vodafone over 4G whilst simultaneously wanting universal broadband for rural communities, Korea has a real-life working LTE eco-system.
So what’s it like?
The handsets come with a spare battery and desk charger as realistic battery life is somewhere south of an iPhone 4S.
The devices sport big screens and other features like a built-in mobile television receiver that allows you to watch the five main TV channels – so its hard to just blame the network.
Call quality was an issue, primarily because of the way the calls are handled, the Korean careers were using 3G networks to carry voice calls. This means that calls are affected by network handover issues and the complexity of the chip architectures needed to do this.
Network coverage is patchy, which is why the 4G networks have bolstered their offerings with wi-fi roaming. You can’t go into a coffee shop or a department store and not find a paid for wi-fi service.
The key thing for me was that there wasn’t a key application that demonstrated the real-world superiority of LTE over 3G services. And this means that its hard to drive sales beyond the early adopter community unless carriers use bundle-based price promotions and subsidised handsets. One thing that did strike me whilst on the road was that laptop users didn’t bother using 3-or-4G dongles at all – which is where I thought LTE would be able to demonstrate superiority.