SK Telecom’s partnership with Pokémon GO is expected to kick off the zero-rating debate in Korea, as one element of the joint marketing venture includes temporarily offering a zero-rating on Pokémon GO until June.
This means that game players will not be charged for mobile data that they use while playing the AR game, although officials said data for logging in, updates, and downloads will be charged.
In general, the South Korean government is trying to introduce measures to relieve the financial burden on consumers, as it has been reported that communications fees are one of the three biggest burdens for low- and middle-income households nationwide.
South Korea is now toying with the emerging concept of zero-rating, which charges data fees to business operators rather than to consumers. The government and relevant industry officials are starting discussions related to the implementation of this new policy.
The Korean government has held fast to its principle to promote net neutrality. In 2015, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning issued an administrative guidance to KT Corp when the telecommunications company launched a 3,300-won ($2.93) subscription package jointly with Kakao for 3GB of free data for Kakao services such as Kakao Talk mobile messenger.
Apart from the net neutrality debate, zero-rating has been criticized for mostly benefitting major companies at the expense of startups and other SMEs, and giving excessive leverage to service providers.
However, with the US FCC under Ajit Pai and the Trump administration now making moves to ease regulations on net neutrality, Korea’s telecoms market is watching closely, hoping that changes in the US will also influence regulatory attitudes in South Korea.
This would subsequently lead to easier zero-rating rules to ease mobile data burdens of consumers as well, reports Korea Bizwire:
“What should come first is a rigorous discussion on the concept and the repercussions of zero-rating,” said professor Park Jae-chon from Inha University’s School of Information Technology & Telecommunications.
“There needs to be a set of standards to measure whether a particular zero-rating has discriminatory intentions or whether it treats all consumers impartially.”
The science ministry takes a similar position:
“Zero-rating can benefit consumers, but it can also pose a negative impact on market competition,” said an official from the MSIFP. “We have yet to arrive at a clear-cut conclusion on how it will influence the market, and the US is just starting to see its outcomes. We’ll keep monitoring the changes.”
The zero-rating debate in the US has effectively come to an end. Korea often takes their lead from the US in many cases. Will zero-rating and net neutrality be the exception?
This article was originally published on PricingDataPlans