Samsung pushes back on smart TVs

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Samsung pushes back on smart TVs

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Lee Kyeong-sik, fourth from left, an executive of Samsung Electronics’ visual display division, tells reporters how KT’s restriction of its smart TVs is wrong at the company’s Seocho District headquarters in southern Seoul yesterday morning. [YONHAP]

Samsung Electronics, the largest TV maker in the world, rejected claims that its smart TVs consume so much data they may cripple telecommunication networks.

“Smart TV’s traffic is between 1.5 and 8 megabytes per second, which is the level similar to or lower than IPTVs [Internet Protocol TVs],” Lee Kyeong-sik, an executive of Samsung’s visual display division, told reporters in a hastily arranged press conference.

In an unprecedented move, KT - the country’s No. 1 fixed-line operator and No. 2 mobile carrier - disabled features of Samsung’s smart TVs on Friday, claiming the devices consume five to 15 times the data that IPTVs do and pose a threat to its network being overloaded.

KT said Samsung’s refusal to talk about the issue forced its hand.

Samsung protested immediately, saying the allegations weren’t true and KT’s move went against the principle of “network neutrality,” in which Internet providers shouldn’t discriminate against businesses that use their services.

Samsung also filed for an injunction to block the restriction with the Seoul Central District Court Friday.

Samsung officials told reporters that KT’s move is discriminatory because KT didn’t adopt such measures against Apple products when the increased use of iPhones between 2010 and 2011 caused a network overload.

“It is worrisome because we learned that KT can just cut off the Internet - which is a public property - from any enterprise as it wishes,” a Samsung official said.

Samsung says it has sold 800,000 smart TVs in Korea so far and that 300,000 of them are thought to use KT’s Internet networks.

“We are considering additional legal measures as we want to minimize inconvenience for these customers,” the official said.

KT also arranged a hasty press conference in the afternoon, saying that Samsung’s smart TVs are “causing harm to the public.”

“Samsung’s smart TVs are like bulk cargo vehicles on the expressway that KT has built [the Internet network],” Kim Hyo-sil, KT’s director of external relations, told the Korean media. “As smart TVs get more widely used, high-capacity traffic will occur and KT’s Internet network will collapse.”

Other carriers - SK Telecom and LG U+ - have reportedly decided not to disable the functions on the smart TVs.

The Korea Communications Commission, the country’s telecommunications watchdog, called KT’s move “inappropriate” last week, saying it may punish the company if the action violates the law.

This isn’t the first fight between Samsung and KT since the dawn of the so-called smart era. When KT was the first and only distributor of Apple phones from November 2009 to March 2011, Samsung - Apple’s rival - reportedly held back on offering it its best devices to sell.

Smart TVs not only have Internet connectivity like IPTVs, but also app functions like smartphones and tablets. Market researcher DisplaySearch said that smart TV sales last year amounted to around 60 million units worldwide, and the figure will grow 20 percent every year to surpass 150 million units by 2015.

Samsung Electronics is aiming to sell at least 25 million units this year worldwide.


By Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

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