Mobile data war rages as use soars

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Mobile data war rages as use soars

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A 41-year-old homemaker identified only as Kang admits she is a smartphone addict whose daily routine starts with visiting various online communities.

She accesses these online communities of neighborhood homemakers, who post information ranging from shopping tips to the latest entertainment and events, via her smartphone.

She also uses her smartphone to watch videos on YouTube and shop at overseas shopping malls. She hardly touches her home computers.

“It always seems as though the mobile plan’s data available is not enough,” said Kang. “I’m considering subscribing to a more expensive monthly plan that includes more Internet data.”

A 29-year-old office worker whose family name is Kim says every Sunday he sits at home watching a movie on his smartphone instead of going to the theaters, or watching it on TV or his computer. Kim says watching the movie via smartphone is his way of unwinding before another workweek begins.

“It has now become my habit to watch a movie on my smartphone every Sunday night,” said Kim.

The top three mobile carriers are rolling out promotions that offer larger amounts of data as more and more smartphone owner use larger amounts of mobile data due to the improved quality of content, including high-definition video streaming.

But some analysts say such packages do not benefit consumers.

SK Telecom, the nation’s largest mobile carrier, introduced Safe Option Plus earlier this month. This monthly plan offers twice as much data as currently available plans.

For example, the current maximum data with the most expensive monthly plan, LTE Nationwide Unlimited 69, is 5 gigabytes (GB). Paying an additional 5,000 won ($4.50) per month would double the data to 10 GB.

Those who subscribe to cheaper SK Telecom LTE plans will see their data increase by up to 1.5 times when they sign up for Safe Option Plus. A subscriber to the LTE T55 plan paying the extra 5,000 won per month would go from 2 GB to 5 GB.

“As customers increase their use of mobile Internet data, we plan to continue introducing products and services to meet demand,” said Kim Young-seop, head of marketing strategy at SK Telecom.

Data use has surged along with the spread of smartphones. The amount of LTE wireless Internet use was 2,838 terabytes in January 2012 and 113,019 terabytes in December.

KT, the second-largest mobile carrier, is increasing the amount of data in its Olleh TV Mobile Pack, with which users can watch IPTV with their smartphones, to 10 GB from 6 GB.

Subscribed to this service, which is 5,000 won per month, can watch 80 channels with 10 GB data and 70,000 VODs, including movies and soap operas.

KT also is rolling out an Essence Pack promotion, which bundled the Olleh TV Mobile Pack and Genie Pack for those users who have a high preference for video content and music. They can listen to unlimited music.

Those who subscribe to the 8,000 won per month Essence Pack by the end of May will be charged only 100 won for the first month.

LG U+, the No. 3 player, is providing various gifts and movie tickets to those who subscribe to Uflix Movie through Sunday.

Users will be able to enjoy 18,000 movies and shows with unlimited data.

All three mobile carriers claim that the purpose of these marketing promotions is to reduce the burden of communications costs for their customers.

However, analysts disagree.

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced on Jan. 28 that it will change mobile carriers’ monthly plans based on the amount of voice calls to those that will provide more data.

The ministry agreed with critics who say existing voice call plans don’t reflecting the recent consumption trends of the increasing use mobile data since the commercialization of LTE.

For mobile carriers, the goal has become encouraging customers to use more data to increase revenues.

“From now on, the profitability of mobile carriers will have to depend on the amount of data used per person,” said a spokesman for a mobile carrier.

Thus, the competition and marketing activities to increase data used by their customers are expected to intensify.

However, consumers must be wary of these products and services.

The mobile carries are aware of the fact that once customers are used to consuming a lot of data, it would not be easy for them to reduce the amount.

It is similar to the theory of irreversibility of consumption, in which increased consumption is rarely reduced.

“Rather than just accepting the marketing promotions by mobile carriers, smartphone users must check their own consumption patterns and the amount of data usage thoroughly,” said Cho Dong-geun, a professor of economics at Myongji University.

BY HAM JONG-SUN [kjy@joongang.co.kr]


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