EE has ushered another nine locations in the UK into its 4G LTE promised land, but Korea's two leading operators have warned UK networks not to expect a quick return on their investment in 4G infrastructure and bandwidth.
Korea is seen as having the most advanced 4G infrastructure in the world, with 30% of its mobile users on superfast networks. The problem, say SK Telecom and KT Corp, is getting them to pay for the privilege.
EE has the UK's 4G market all to itself until around the summer, and is certainly making the most of it.
The addition of Barnsley, Chorley, Coventry, Newport, Preston, Rotherham, Telford, Walsall, and Watford takes the count of active 4G locations to 37, and by June EE reckons it will have doubled that figure.
Even then, LTE in the UK will still be very much in its infancy compared to Korea, but KT Corp boss Lee Suk-Chae has warned networks that consumers simply won't embrace 4G at all unless they can do so without having to spend significantly more than they do right now.
“Our European colleagues complain that the explosion in data has not fully happened for them, that it did not come to reality,” Lee told Reuters at Mobile World Congress this week.
“In Korea, they are data crazy. We have unprecedented demand. We cannot handle it. But the issue we have is that they are not willing to pay enough. So, the fundamental problem is, can we make any money out of it?”
SK Telecom CTO Byun Jae-Woan put it more plainly: “The traffic increases but the revenue does not necessarily follow.”
“We have seen about a $13 increase in average revenue per user compared with 3G. So, it is good money, but it may not be enough to justify the huge investment needed in LTE.”
The good news is both firms expect things will improve as the requirement for new infrastructure investment drops and the 4G adoption rate continues to grow.
But that's in Korea, and we're a long way from where they are.