Last week I attended the Launch event for Samsung’s SmartTVs, the latest refresh in Samsung’s 3D, internet connected television line.
While Samsung continues to be embroiled in open warfare with Apple over phone patents and trade dress, the television part of its business goes from strength to strength and is arguably leading TV makers LG and Sony in both innovation and advances in flat screen technology.
At the event there were numerous models on display – enormous flat panels where the picture stretches from one side to the other – Samsung having effectively dispensed with the bezel – that black bit around the edge of your TV – all together.
The panels, as state of the art as they are, aren’t really the big deal that they used to be when you talked about televisions. Instead it what the television can do that is point everyone was talking about. (And indeed doing too much of – see below.)
The SmartTV is now essentially another computer in your house, or at least another connection to the internet. SmartTV brings (curated) Youtube content right into the living room – and in 3D, movies and documentaries on demand feature heavily and of course nothing is complete these days without having an app store. Samsung delivers hundreds of apps, some free, some paid, right to your finger tips – or at least to the finger tips holding the remote.
And if you see the words “app store” and wonder…yes! You can play Angry Birds at HD resolution from the comfort of your couch or Lazy Boy recliner. You potato you!
Other features in your SmartTV, if you can afford one, include a web cam and mic for Skype, though I wonder if Skyping with me in HD for instance is such a wise decision, and of course each 3D TV comes with a set of Bluetooth enabled Active shutter 3D glasses. The 3D is vastly improved from a year ago when I last visited Samsung for a TV launch, but true to form after about 5 minutes I started to get sea sick. 3D, you see, is just not for me!
Joining me at the launch was Andy from Kojects
Overall Samsung continues to produce high end, gorgeous looking televisions at reasonable-ish prices. Of course I won’t be buying one soon (I am neither blessed with the space, nor the cash for one) but if anyone is listening (reading?) my birthday is in late March.
And so it was I settled down for a cup of coffee after writing the above and read the newspaper only to be greeted by this headline:
While at the event I enquired with one of the reps what sort of bandwidth was required to run a SmartTV and get a good experience with You Tube and 3D video on demand etc. The answer was that Samsung recommends a through-put of about 4Mb/s – I would note that sitting in the middle of Incheon and using some dodgy unsecured Wifi as I write this I am topping out at 28Mb/s so what’s the problem?
It seems that the use of SmartTVs was slowing KTs network – now it would have to be a noticeable change in bandwidth available for KT to take the step of shutting off internet access to a whole segment of devices. But then I was a little confused – well not really, not even surprised – when I read this:
The move came one day after KT warned it would restrict access of Internet-connected TV applications to its network, claiming they “free-ride,” causing heavy cyber traffic and slowing other users’ access to the Internet
KT and other fixed-line operators have requested smart TV producers pay money in return for using its Internet network since last June.
Ahhhh – the penny drops.
In effect KT (and other network providers) are holding Smsung’s customers to ransom. There can’t be enough SmartTVs being sold for there to be major disruptions to the network, rather the network providers see a new cash cow, now that Mobile and LTE mobile are sewn up and the regular domestic internet market starts to wither in favour of the former two options.
“Since Samsung said it will not negotiate, we have decided to restrict access of its smart TV applications to our Internet networks,” KT said in a statement.
In fact what happens the next time Samsung or LG or ”Random Korean Firm X” creates an internet connected device that KT (or another network provider) doesn’t like and thinks people should pay more for?
Just cut them off?
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Samsung set the Lawyers on KT almost immediately saying
Samsung had warned it would take legal action against any KT move, saying such action contravened customers’ rights to use the network without discrimination.
KT has acted similarly in the past – anyone at home who has more than about 3 computers on their home network will get a nasty call from KT demanding they buy more IP addresses. (In a household of three containing at least 6 computers, 3 iPhones, 2 iPads, 2 wireless routers and an assortment of Android goodies – not to mention visitors and the filthy students next door stealing our wifi – you can imagine I have had that conversation more times than I care to remember!)
Luckily my old nemesis The Korea Communications Commission (The KCC, I wish we could just call them KoCoCo) also spoke out on the issue thus:
The country’s telecommunications watchdog on Thursday called KT’s move “inappropriate,” saying it may punish the company if the move violates related laws.
“If KT maintains its stance, the watchdog plans to take every measure to protect customers’ rights,” the Korea Communications Commission said in a statement.
Most “inappropriate” if you ask me!
Overall, I would wait before buying a new SmartTv (as gorgeous as they look) given a) the price and b) this mess with KT
[Update:] KT – at the loosing end of a court injunction and due to KCC arbitration between KT and Samsung, was forced to restore connectivity to Samsung SmartTVS at 5pm yesterday (2/14). The KCC said something about fostering a developing ICT ecosystem and that the companies should get together and work something out…or else. The KCC will have a look at the situation in 15 days and if necessary impose penalties under the Telecommunications Business Act.
Elsewhere in the above linked Yonhap story the troubling words: “Net Neutrality Policy Advisory Committee”. Stay tuned on that one….!