Korea's FTC to monitor anti-competitive behaviour in 5G

Korea's FTC to monitor anti-competitive behaviour in 5G 1

South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) will “closely monitor” anticompetitve behaviour that can occur during the transition from 4G to 5G, the commission’s chairwoman said.

“We plan to closely monitor semiconductor companies blockading market entry of competitors, which may occur during the transition to 5G [from LTE],” FTC chairwoman Cho Sung-wook told a press conference.

She didn’t name relevant companies but her comments are widely interpreted as being aimed at US chip giant Qualcomm.

Qualcomm was slapped with a steep $865 million fine by the FTC back in 2016. FTC has deemed Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices for smartphone-making clients and chip competitors to be an abuse of standard essential patents (SEP) and its dominant position, and against fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. South Korean smartphone makers Samsung and LG use the US chip giant’s Snapdragon application processor for their smartphones.

Earlier this month, Qualcomm’s appeal was rejected by the Seoul Central District Court and the case is now being reviewed at the Supreme Court.

Qualcomm has consistently denied that its licensing practices were anti-competitive.

The FTC is planning to form an investigative team solely focused on monitoring the semiconductor sector in the first quarter of 2020, Cho said.

Also at the conference, Song Sang-min, chief of the FTC’s anti-monopoly bureau, said anti-competitive behaviour always occurred during transition from 2G to 3G, 3G to 4G, and so forth. 

“We believe this can occur again during the transition from 4G to 5G,” Song said. 

“Such behaviour include forced bundling of product and services as well as exclusive trading.” 

Since launching 5G networks back in April, South Korea has garnered 4 million users in 5G as of October. 

Qualcomm unveiled its new Snapdragon 865 5G platform earlier this month, which will begin shipping in the first quarter of 2020. The chip is expected to power flagship smartphones from major vendors such as Samsung next year.

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