South Korea’s antitrust regulator said it had imposed a total of 33.6 billion won ($25.06 million) in fines on three domestic mobile carriers for exaggerating their 5G network speeds. The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said the three South Korean firms – SK Telecom Co Ltd, KT Corp, and LG Uplus Corp – had also unfairly advertised that they were the fastest relative to their competitors.
“The three telecom companies advertised that consumers could use target 5G network speeds, which cannot be achieved in real-life environment … companies advertised that their 5G network speed was faster than competitors without evidence,” the KFTC said in a statement.
In support of ongoing civil lawsuits filed by consumers, the advertisements released by the three mobile carriers have been presented by the regulator to a local court.
SK Telecom and KT Corp declined to comment. A spokesperson at LG Uplus said the company is reviewing the sanctions.
The KFTC imposed a fine of 16.8 billion won on SK Telecom, 13.9 billion won on KT and 2.8 billion won on LG Uplus.
There were 30.76 million 5G network users in South Korea in June, accounting for about 38% of the total 80.23 million mobile subscriptions in the country, according to data from the Ministry of Science and ICT.
In a paper issued last week, SK Telecom states correctly the industry is far from achieving its 5G goals even four years after commercialization. There were “misunderstandings” about network performance and problems such as device form factors and lack of market demand, it said. “A variety of visionary services were expected, but there was no killer service,” the paper stated. “We should have taken a more objective perspective,” it added. In particular:
A variety of visionary services were expected, but there was no killer service Even at the time when preparing for 5G, services such as autonomous driving, UAM, XR, hologram, and digital twin had appeared and expected, but most of them did not live up to expectations. We should have taken a more objective perspective. For example, whether 5G technology alone could change the future, or whether the overall environment constituting the service was prepared together. If so, the gap between the public’s expectations for 5G and the reality would not have been large. 3D video, UHD streaming, AR/VR, autonomous driving, remote surgery, etc. are representative services that are not still successful presented by the 5G Vision Recommendation. Most of them are the result of a combination of factors such as form factor constraints, immaturity of device and service technology, low or absent
market demand, and policy/regulation issues, rather than a single factor of the lack of 5G performance.
The authors concluded that instead of expecting that the new technology alone could create successful services, it would have been more effective to have collaborated with partners to build a broader 5G ecosystem.
Gap between 5G Vision Recommendations and customer expectations:
Although the usage scenarios and capability goals presented in the 5G Vision Recommendation are future goals to be achieved in the long term, misunderstandings have been created that can lead to excessive expectations of 5G performance and innovative services based on it from the beginning of commercialization. To prevent this misunderstanding from recurring in 6G, it is necessary to consider various usage scenarios of 6G, set achievable goals, and communicate accurately with the public. In particular, there were issues raised about the maximum transmission speed of 20Gbps, which was considered an icon of 5G key performance indicators. As 3G evolved into LTE, the radio access technology also evolved from WCDMA to OFDMA, and with the introduction of CA and multi-antenna technology, it became possible to use a much wider bandwidth than 3G. This can be seen as a ‘revolutionary’ improvement. On the other hand, 5G is considered as an ‘evolutionary’ improvement that supplements the performance of LTE based on the same radio access technology, CA, and multi-antenna system technology. Due to this, it was difficult to implement the increase in transmission speed shown in LTE in 5G at once. Moreover, the difference in technology perception was further revealed in the initial stage of 5G commercialization. Early commercialization was promoted for 5G, however, 5G required more base station compared to LTE to build a nationwide network due to frequency characteristics, requiring more efforts in terms of cost and time.
SK Telecom has made significant efforts to expedite 5G nationwide rollout, but customers wanted the same level of coverage as LTE in a brief period.