Gov’t tells top 3 carriers not to limit mVoIP calls

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Gov’t tells top 3 carriers not to limit mVoIP calls

Smartphone users with any monthly plan from one of the top mobile carriers will be able to have unlimited conversations with their friends or family overseas via mobile Skype, Viber or KakaoTalk’s Voice Talk starting at the end of the year.

The ICT Ministry said yesterday that it will order the top three mobile carriers to completely lift their limits on mobile Voice over Internet Protocol (mVoIP), a wireless Internet calling service.

People can make free phone calls to other users when they install the messenger programs on their computers. They can also make calls for free using the mobile apps via Wi-Fi, but they will have to pay if their phones are connected to a data plan.

Without Wi-Fi, SK Telecom and KT users who subscribe to monthly LTE plans of 50,000 won ($49) or higher can make calls on the mobile phone apps worth up to 450 megabytes per month before being completely banned to access such apps. MVoIP calls consume about 0.6 megabytes per minute.

Despite heavy phone bills, many subscribers choose expensive monthly plans with enough data for mVoIP because it is cheaper than each phone company’s overseas calling services, which usually charge more than 100 won per minute for calls to the United States.

The move is part of the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning’s policy to cut back people’s monthly phone bill, one of President Park Geun-hye’s election pledges made in December 2012. According to a study by Statistics Korea, households spend an average of 159,400 won per month on telecom bills.

On Thursday, the ministry announced its first phone-cost reducing policy for thrifty phones, requiring those companies to create cheaper plans to attract more LTE and 3G smartphone users.

The second policy is directly aimed at the top three mobile carriers.

As a preliminary step to eliminating the three carriers’ service registration fee by next year, the ministry ordered the companies to give a 50 percent discount to new subscribers by September. After the change, the registration charge will be 11,880 won for SK Telecom, 7,200 won for KT and 9,000 won for LG U+.

USIM chips, which are used in all smartphones and now cost about 9,900 won, will be reduced by 10 percent in the coming year.

BY KIM JI-YOON [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]



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