South Korean Government Implements Radio Waves Act Amendment

Nov 14, 2019

Radio Waves Act amendment includes information that asks to fundamentally change the current Radio Waves Act system that has continued since 2000. This is the reason why the amendment is added with a modifier ‘complete revision’.
The amendment makes a diagnosis that the current Radio Waves Act’s regulatory system is complicated and that it is too difficult for consumers to understand. It states that the current Radio Waves Act is not able to effectively handle radio waves use that is changing very rapidly.
Purpose of the amendment is to establish an institutional foundation that allows various demands for radio wave to be accommodated smoothly throughout the society and create a foundation for industrial development using radio wave and promote areas related to radio wave and plan for improvement in public welfare.
The amendment has introduced frequency license system and eased regulations regarding operation of radio stations. It combines the cost of using radio wave with frequency license fee and it will also work on promoting the industry and creating a safe environment.
◊Current radio wave use system unified into frequency license system
Current radio wave use system will be divided into ‘allocation’ and ‘designation’ that were set up in early 2000s and ‘approval of use’ that was introduced in 2014.
Allocation will be further divided into spectrum charge assignment and spectrum screening assignment. Period of use will be no more than 20 years.
Designation is used for broadcasting, private telecommunication, and supply of frequency for industries. There is no regulation on cost of use or period of use. Approval of use is a system that supplies frequencies that are necessary for national defense, diplomacy, and security. Although there is cost of use, period of use is no more than 10 years.
Allocation, designation, and approval of use systems all have different period of use and cost of use. There are also various regulations related to establishment of radio stations. ‘Frequency license system’ will solve these problems and improve efficiency in use and management.
The amendment defines the concept of frequency license and relevant procedures within Article 2, 36, 37, and 38. Frequency license is further separated into ‘business frequency license’, ‘frequency license for the government and local governments’ and ‘general frequency license’.
One who wants to obtain such license needs to apply for one through the minister of Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT). The minister of MSIT will evaluate appropriateness of installation and operation plan and give out a license based on his or her evaluation. Evaluation can also differ depending on the type of a frequency license.
License for broadcasting frequency for opening a ground-wave broadcasting station must be applied through Korea Communications Commission (KCC) which will then request an evaluation from the minister of MSIT.
◊The amendment to be centered on users
When frequency license system is introduced, every frequency supply system such as allocation, designation, and approval of use will be unified into frequency license system. Whether it be a telecommunications company, a local government, or a normal person, everyone can now apply for a frequency license and use frequency after passing a screening.
“With our current frequency system, it is difficult for a user to know whether he or she needs to receive allocation or designation and whether he or she needs to pay a cost.” said a professor who specializes in radio wave. “The amendment has the current Radio Waves Act system to be centered on users and not suppliers.”
Telecommunications frequency license for bandwidth that involves competitions is given through the current auction system. However single telecommunications frequency license does not give a right to a telecommunications company to participate in all auctions.
For example, when there is a competition for 3.7 to 4.0GHz bandwidth for 5G network, telecommunications frequency license is given by conducting an auction for corresponding bandwidth. If there is an auction for different bandwidth, telecommunications frequency license is given for that particular auction. It can be seen that an auction is held during a process of giving a license for particular bandwidth.
License for telecommunications frequency, which does not have competitive demands, is given through a screening.
According to the amendment, temporary frequency license (less than 2 years) can be given when frequency needs to be used temporarily for national event and others.
Effective durations of a frequency license and a telecommunications frequency license are usually no more than 10 years (7 years for broadcasting) and no more than 20 years respectively. If a frequency license holder wants to change the use of his or her license before expiration date, he or she can do so after getting an approval from the minister of MSIT.

Cycle of how frequency is used under the revised Radio Waves Act <Cycle of how frequency is used under the revised Radio Waves Act>

◊Cost of radio wave use to be combined into frequency license fee
Cost of allocation and radio wave fee that needs to be paid during a period of use are combined into frequency license fee and they need to be paid either to the minister of MSIT or KCC.
Frequency license fee is calculated after considering the value of frequency and the cost of management of radio wave. Management cost indicates personal and physical costs.
‘Standard price of a competitive price’ is to be set when a telecommunications frequency license is given due to an auction. It is the lowest competitive price of a current auction
Necessary matters such as calculation method of frequency license fee, collection procedure, and distribution of profits are set through a presidential decree while detailed calculation method is defined by an enforcement decree.
Frequency license fee is going to be incorporated into information communication promotion fund and broadcasting communication development fund. As of now, frequency allocation cost and radio wave fee are assigned as fund and general accounting respectively. It will be interesting whether such incorporation will resolve overlapping issue of allocation cost and radio wave fee.
Although it is the principle to levy frequency license fee on every frequency, fee will be exempted for few frequency licenses such as frequency license for the government and local governments, broadcasting frequency license that does not aim for profit, broadcasting frequency license for ground-wave broadcasting that pays share of the expenses, frequency license that aims to promote public welfare, and frequency license that aims to introduce an innovative technology or a service or vitalize market competition.
◊Procedure of opening and operating a radio station to be simplified
The amendment has also simplified the procedure of opening and operating a radio station. One with a frequency license can start constructing a radio station without receiving an approval for opening a radio station. This is because radio station opening approval (report) process is included into the frequency license system.
Report for completion however will maintain the current system in order to understand the current status of opening a radio station. However, one does not need to receive a completion inspection after reporting for completion when it comes to telecommunication.
Business with a telecommunications frequency license can submit documents that prove appropriateness of technology standard, qualifications of employees, and allocation of the authorized strength during the process of reporting a completion in order to skip a completion inspection. As a result, a telecommunications company can conduct an inspection on its own.
“Even 10% is significant for mobile telecommunications companies as they have hundreds of thousands of base stations in order to conduct a completion inspection on a radio station by sampling 10%.” said a representative for MSIT. “We have eased our system so that establishment of network does not get delayed due to unnecessary administrative procedures.”
In order to strengthen follow-up management, MSIT is going to conduct more periodic and occasional inspections and it will impose strict punishments such as suspension or closure of radio station when a company violates a related regulation.
◊The amendment prepares for hyper-connected intelligent society
The amendment also includes articles regarding industrial promotion and safe radio wave environment. Establishment of Radio Wave Policy Commission is enacted within Article 6. Current Frequency Policy Commission decides on policies related to major frequencies. Radio Wave Policy Commission will review major policies related to radio wave. It is expected that the commission will be composed of up to 20 members including a chairman.
Article 10 of the amendment specifies designation of an agency that will train professionals and budget support. When necessary, Article 11 states that radio wave promotion policies can be established by conducting a factual survey of the radio wave industry.
Article 14 allows for an evaluation on how frequency is used effectively to be conducted based on the current state of how frequency is used. It is a measure for frequency collection, reassignment, and joint use. Evaluation on efficiency will be the basis for ‘Frequency Rating System’.
In addition, the amendment calls for the establishment of Radio Wave Safety Information Center (Article 74) and the operation of a committee comprised of experts for improved understanding of radio wave.
The amendment is a bill that is established to prepare for increased radio wave use due to hyper-connected intelligent society such as 5G network and IoT (Internet of Things). It will be interesting to see whether the amendment will simplify regulatory systems that have become complicated due to many partial revisions and whether the amendment will increase the efficiency from both supplier and buyer aspects.
Staff Reporter An, Hocheon | hcan@etnews.com

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