Cell service to lose link to telephone numbers

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Cell service to lose link to telephone numbers

Starting on Jan. 1, SK Telecom’s cell phone users will be allowed to change to another service provider without losing their telephone number. Other cell firms will be required to follow suit later in the year. The Ministry of Information and Communication said yesterday that the move was intended to spur more competition in the cell phone industry. SK Telecom is the largest of Korea’s cell phone service providers, and charges somewhat more than KTF and LG Telecom, its two rivals in the business. One barrier to changing service providers, the ministry said, is the inconvenience and sometimes expense of changing phone numbers, name cards and stationery. The rules will be extended to KTF subscribers on July 1, 2004, and to LG Telecom subscribers on Jan. 1, 2005. The ministry said that a subscriber must be current with his bills from the service subscriber before being allowed to switch carriers and keep the same telephone number. It said that a ministry agency, the Korea Information Society Development Institute, will set fees to be levied on cell phone users in order to make a switch. Those fees are expected to include a commission of about 2,000 won ($1.60) and a subscription fee at the new carrier of about 30,000 won. Those switching services will also have to buy a new handset compatible with the new carrier’s service. According to the ministry guidelines, a subscriber could change only once every three months. But if call quality was the reason for switching they would be allowed to cancel the switch within 14 days. The ministry said the staggered introduction of the system was intended to even the playing field for the three carriers. SK dominates the business, with 53 percent of the market, partly because it was the first to market with cell phones. LG Telecom, with 14 percent of the market, said it probably could increase its share to 20 percent. by Choi Hyung-kyu

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