Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Collusion on phone service fees?

As reported today in The Korea Joongang Daily, some observers are claiming that there is collusion among the three main mobile service providers in the setting of service fees.  As shown in the accompanying graphic (click for a full-size version), all three service providers have nearly identical service charges.  Consequently the civic group People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), has raised suspicion of collusion. The civic group reported its suspicions to the Fair Trade Commission on May 18.
The Korea Joongang Daily article also quoted Lee Joon-gil, former FTC official and senior adviser at the law firm Jipyong as saying “It’s not a collusion when everyone unfolds their umbrella when it rains but when everyone is holding up a black umbrella, one could suspect collusion. When all of the three mobile carrier’s service plans are similar, it is unnatural as holding up a black umbrella.”

According to the article, the mobile companies say that in meeting consumers’ demand for cheaper smartphones, price competition is focused mostly on the device subsidy rather than on the service charges. “The phone, text messaging and data services are all similar among the three mobile carriers, and that’s why the services charges are similar,” said an industry official. “[People] don’t see soju, whose prices are similar [among different brands] as a collusion.”

Thursday, May 18, 2017

LTE network trials prioritize public safety traffic

As reported by TheStack.com "Nokia along with Finland’s State Security Networks Group, and Telia, have successfully trialed a priority system whereby public safety communications are triaged over other data traffic in LTE networks. The trials, according to a Nokia release, demonstrated the ability to prioritise traffic for first responders in busy 4G networks."  This is an important development, since no country will want to let a public safety-LTE network sit idle simply because there is no crisis or disaster occurring.  The report also noted that "Public safety is a priority for many networking and edge computing projects. Earlier this year, Ericsson and Intel announced the launch of the 5G Innovators Initiative (5GI2), with which initial development includes augmented and virtual reality applications for first responder drone surveillance."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ransomware and Korea's digital divide

Mainstream media and tech blogs are full of reports that the recent massive ransomware cyber attacks may be linked to North Korea.  This episode adds more evidence that Korea's division is both a military and a digital one.  One example of current reporting is The Guardian's report similarities were spotted between details of last week’s massive cyber-attack and code used by a prolific cybergang with links to North Korean government.   The graphic at left (click to see a full size version) shows employees at the Korea Internet and Security Agency (Kisa) in Seoul at work on May 15 monitoring  possible ransomware cyber-attacks.  The Hangul in yellow at the top of the large wall screen says  "공격 현황 "or "attack status" in English.
The Guardian story, notes that  "The WannaCry exploits used in the attack were drawn from a cache of exploits stolen from the NSA by the Shadow Brokers in August 2016. The NSA and other government agencies around the world create and collect vulnerabilities in popular pieces of software (such as Windows) and cyberweapons to use for intelligence gathering and cyberwarfare. Once these vulnerabilities were leaked by the Shadow Brokers, they became available for cybercriminals to adapt for financial gain by creating ransomware. This ransomware spread rapidly on Friday by exploiting a vulnerability contained in the NSA leak, targeting computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system, taking over users’ files and demanding $300 to restore them."
In response, the president of Microsoft stated that governments should view this massive cyber attack as a wake-up call.  Brad Smith added that “Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”
I would only add that this latest cyber attack episode underscores that the division on the Korean peninsula is both a military one, symbolized by the 38th parallel DMZ and a deep digital divide.  Quite clearly, North Korea seeks to advance both its missile and nuclear weapons programs and its capacity to wage cyber warfare.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Risks of human error in using big data: Another example

Earlier this year, we are social and Hootsuite published a slide deck entitled Digital in 2017 Global Overview, drawing on data from Google, Akamai and other sources.  Overall, this collection of statistics and graphs meets the goal implied in its title, by providing a valuable global overview of the rapidly changing digital landscape.  However, as illustrated by slide 89 (click to see a full-size version of the graphic), the publication also demonstrates the risks that human error can creep into the compilation and publication of such data.  The slide indicates that data came from Akamai.   However, according to the Akamai data, the tall leftmost bar must surely represent data for South Korea, which  has led the world in average download speed since 2007.
The chart at left  (click for a full size version) is from my most recent publication, "Network-centric digital development in Korea: Origins, growth and prospects," published by Telecommunications Policy.  It is based on the same Akamai data referred to in slide 89, but does not include the UK because that country was not among the top tier leaders by this measure.
One of my hobbies over the past decade or more has been collecting examples of errors in research reports and scholarly publications about the ICT sector in Korea.  This slide is definitely an addition to the collection.  I would hope that Hootsuite and we are social might acknowledge the error and publish a correction to this slide.  I'm not holding my breath, but one never knows.  A correction would underscore the importance of accuracy and reliability in reporting of cross national data such as those underlying this slide.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

War in Korea and the global electronics market?

During the past week or so, mainstream media outlets around the world have reacted to statements by U.S. President Donald Trump that a war in Korea could have a major impact on the global electronics industry.  Bloomberg headlined that "A Korean War Could Cut Pipeline of Vital Technologies to the World."  The sub-head read "if Korea is hit by a missile, all electronics production will stop." Reuters played it more low-key, with a headline that "Investors, South Korean tech suppliers brush off North Korean threat."    Reuters went so far as to publish a map of Korea showing its key factory locations by company. (click on the graphic for a full size image)
The common denominator in the Bloomberg and Reuters stories is a surface-scratching, sketchy, or vague understanding of Korea, and in particular its ICT sector.  For one thing, the R&D and manufacturing capacity of big companies like Samsung and LG today are spread around the world, including locations like Austin Texas, cities in China and Vietnam (smartphone manufacturing).   How the global electronics industry might be affected by a hypothetical war in Korea is indeed a much more complex matter than these press reports indicate.  It deserves much more thoughtful and in-depth scrutiny.