South Korea Gives Mobile Operators Permission To Ignore Net Neutrality By Surcharging Or Blocking VOIP Services

from the what's-in-it-for-the-customers? dept

Net neutrality arguments are often couched in rather theoretical terms, and many people can’t really see what all the fuss is about. A recent decision in South Korea gives a handy example of what the loss of net neutrality means in practice:

In a move that has critics crying that it is ignoring net neutrality principles, the Korea Communications Commission said last week that it will let three local mobile operators, SK Telecom, KT and LG U+, charge users extra fees for VOIP [voice over IP] applications or block their use entirely.

Among the VOIP services affected is the mobile phone messaging app KakaoTalk, which has a massive following in South Korea:

KakaoTalk has 36 million Korean users and 9.2 million international users. More than half of 50 million Korean cell phone owners use smartphones, according to the Korea Communications Commission.

In other words, thanks to this latest ruling, tens of millions of KakaoTalk users in South Korea will either be forced to pay more, or may even find the service blocked completely. It’s hard to see why the South Korean telecom authority decided this kind of tilted playing field was a good idea: the only ones to benefit are the mobile operators who get to attack new entrants that threatened to disrupt their market, while huge numbers of Korean citizens will be worse off as a result. You could hardly hope for a better demonstration of why net neutrality matters, and is not some purely theoretical concern.

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Companies: kakaotalk

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Comments on “South Korea Gives Mobile Operators Permission To Ignore Net Neutrality By Surcharging Or Blocking VOIP Services”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The easiest way to deal ablow to that scheme and hard to counter is to make the data use another format.

Get an IM that uses text and a TTS(Text To Speach) and voila, you have people talking to each other live in no time.

Or even easier just use a proxy to bypass those filters.

I routinely have to use TOR to access webpages.
For some reason, some pages are unreachable, at some point along the way the requests get stuck.

You think that people searching for “tomato problems” would not have to deal with filters, well no such luck, or maybe it is some problem with my ISP and IPv6 I don’t know, what I do know is that some webpages that have zero reasons to have “problems” are hard to reach, if I was paranoid I would think that big tomato companies are trying to censor the internet, I didn’t go there yet since I am not even certain that there are powerful interests involved trying to make it hard to find how to grow tomatoes.

My best guesses to the problem are:

– IPv6 issue(not likely since it gets stuck in some pages and not others).
– OS network issue(not likely because then it should affect everything not just some parts of the internet).
– ISP filter, somewhere along the path.
– ISP screwing around with DNS requests done to openDNS and GoogleDNS.

The point being, people are finding themselves in need of better connectivity and those people are making people create layers that they can’t control or monitor that easily.

Anonymous Coward says:

Glyn, there are a couple of things at play here. First and foremost, VoIP services (on mobile) are fairly bandwidth intensive, and require a very constant flow of data to maintain the call. Yes it works, but on scale, it’s not a good use of the limited bandwidth available to all users.

Moreover, it’s pretty much unfair competition, and more than slightly against the commercial interests of the privately owned cell phone companies. Why would they want to support user apps which bypass the main source of their revenue?

I wouldn’t be shocked in the long run to see cell companies move to data methods that don’t support this sort of continuous stream of data needed for this type of calling. You only need to drop and resend a few packets a second to make the calling useless, without seriously degrading other users service.

Rabbit80 says:

Re: Re: Re:

Perhaps. However VOIP does require minimal lag – which can be rather hard to achieve on a mobile network without prioritizing the traffic. For example, with a dongle operating on a 21Mbps HSUPA network, I often see ping times in excess of 250ms (With a good strong signal). Compared to wifi on an 8Mbps ADSL connection which pings in around 30-40ms.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

VoIP services (on mobile) are fairly bandwidth intensive

Everything is just data now. So VoIP on mobile is little different than standard voice. They may have to allocate resources slightly differently, but as data use grows, they’ll have to do this anyway. There could even be less overhead with a third party VoIP from the telco’s perspective.

Moreover, it’s pretty much unfair competition,

Explain. The telco sold the user a smartphone that the user could install apps on (including VoIP apps). The telco sold the user a data service. Why is the user using the abilities the telco sold them unfair competition?

and more than slightly against the commercial interests of the privately owned cell phone companies. Why would they want to support user apps which bypass the main source of their revenue?

Oh, so it’s a business model problem, not unfair competition. Guess what?

No one fucking cares about their business model problem.

I wouldn’t be shocked in the long run to see cell companies move to data methods that don’t support this sort of continuous stream of data

And in a competitive market, they could do so, and their customers could choose to move to a different provider if they weren’t satisfied with the service.

But we all know that there isn’t a competitive market in most countries when it comes to telco and mobile service.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

VoIP services (on mobile) are fairly bandwidth intensive, and require a very constant flow of data to maintain the call.

VoIP uses less bandwidth than a traditional voice telephone line does. So much so that “traditional voice telephone lines” are getting more uncommon as time goes by and equipment is upgraded. If you use a standard POTS, your call is reasonably likely to be going over a VoiP system without you knowing. If you’re calling outside your local calling area, it’s almost a certainty.

As to constant flow of data — yes and no. VoiP does nto require a metronome-like constancy, although there is a minimum required. However, even that requirement is far lower with VoiP than with old-fashioned telephone circuits.

Pixelation says:

“it’s not a good use of the limited bandwidth available to all users.”

Ahhh, yes, the old “There isn’t enough bandwidth” myth.
The more the telcos avoid adding support for bandwidth the more they can charge. Win win for them.

Someone will end their business model and they will complain about piracy as they go out of business.

Lutomes (profile) says:

What is always missing from these arguments is what happens if you allow telcos to just be carriers or dumb pipes.

Lets say you have 3 plans on your hypothetical carrier:

1) $20 for x minutes of calls,
2) $20 for x GB of data,
3) $35 for x minutes of calls + x GB of data (i.e. better deal for getting both)

Lets say their user base is split 30%,30%,40% in terms of signups. Per 100 users that would result in revenue of $2600.

If you allow net neutrality and everyone switches to plan #2. We all know the costs of switching calls and data round the network don’t change with volume bar fractional electricity and maintenance costs – your big cost is capital outlay. Also we know VoIP traffic is inconsequential in terms of MB/GB used. So to maintain the same network & profit margin, plan pricing has to change.

Instead of being $20pm it’s now $26pm. This is inescapable. Real world numbers will vary, but the overall accounting change is the same.

The difference is – the above oversimplifies the situation. We don’t just have 1 call plan, and 1 data plan. The telco can offer varying connections at prices where calls are a differentiation in pricing. Some plans will be below the average cost to maintain the network, some above.

If you ask them to just be a big dumb pipe – they have to price closer to the network cost. So those on low volume/use plans will be the ones that miss out. It’s these plans that people normally take advantage of when going on VoIP.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:


Why ISP’s can deliver video, sound and text at one price point cheaper than telcos can do it, all the while spending billions in infra-structure?

Want to see competition, look how Free in France is doing.

What is always missing in this type of talk is the truth, that is the first thing that goes missing always when we start talking about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

This article proves that either:
1. The Korea Communications Commission is receiving bribes from the mobile operators, since they aren’t representing the people’s interests here.
2. The Korea Communications Commission in incompetent at understanding communication technology, and believes everything the mobile operators say.

Chilly8 says:

And mobile operators could more easily get away with that becuase mobile phones do not support VPNs, so there is no way to desguise what you are doing. Android, the most popular mobile operating system in the world, does not support VPN, so the mobile telecomms got their customers right where they want them.

andromaster (profile) says:

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chloejackson says:

This is the one of the last, desperate actions of mobile operators to keep their consumers at their side by force.
In the end, VoIP will win, whatever they try to do against this.

Those who want to use VOIP, will. Like in my place of work, where we decided to have the Ozeki Phone System XE software VoIP PBX.
(You can check here:

Since we have this, the quality of our international calls become the best ever, the billing is clear, and anyone in the company can be
reached anytime, in opposite to the time when we had only PSTN.

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