South Korea, network neutrality and 5G

South Korea, network neutrality and 5G
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In the regulation of electronic communications, 'network neutrality' is something what the European regulators would automatically call a 'must' and they would only discuss proper implementation details. In the US, on contrary, the regulator has decided to cancel the network neutrality requirement. Interestingly enough, recently we can observe a similar anti-neutrality movement in South Korea, in connection with the new 5G technology. South Korea is namely the country, heading the global internet connection speed rankings for a long time. The average connection speed in the country was more than 28 Mbps based on the latest global Akamai report for Q1 2017.

Telecommunications and broadband companies are calling for a repeal of the so-called net neutrality regulations, which ensure equal access to the internet, ahead of the era of the fifth-generation (5G) networks, reported The Korea Times.

An official from a telecommunication company said an imbalance in profits has worsened between telecom firms and those specializing in portal sites and content, as the latter have made huge profits using infrastructure invested in and built by telecom firms, the daily informed further.

"Portal sites and content firms have been able to grow rapidly as there were not many regulations against them," the official said. "They do not need to make investments to secure frequencies in auction and build up base stations."

Another official from a telecom firm noted that prices for large portals to use the internet networks are estimated at about tens of billions of won, but they have paid outrageously low prices so far.

He said portals and content firms are all competitors of telecom firms as almost all ICT companies are now making full efforts to expand their businesses related to future technologies such as artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and big data to find growth engines in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

"Imbalance will deepen as portals and content firms are not subject to tough regulations," the official said. "This should be corrected."

Telecom firms are already suffering from losses in their operating profits.

The telecom companies said scrapping the net neutrality regulations will create a virtuous cycle as they would be able to receive fair compensation for offering their internet networks to other businesses. This will revive investment and competition as well, they said.

Meanwhile, those who disagree with repealing the net neutrality regulations cited that once the rules are scrapped, charges for using the internet networks will increase rapidly. In such conditions, companies that can afford enormous expenses will be the only ones to survive, they said.

The 5G network boasts speeds of up to 100 times faster than the current LTE networks and will allow data transmission speeds 40 to 50 times faster.

The key requirement for 5G technology is it must back 1 million connected devices per square kilometre. Also, the total download capacity for a single 5G mobile phone must be at least 20 Gbps, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), wrote the Korea Times.

After this brief look into the ongoing discussions on network neutrality in South Korea, which at the same time is the global leader in the internet speed rankings, it will be interesting to follow further developments in the network neutrality regulation in other countries, including the EU, ahead of the future technologies, such as 5G. It seems that the debate on the network neutrality and the right regulatory approach is not over yet.

Published on: May 30, 2018


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