Watchdog allows mobile phone service over wireless Internet
The nation's telecommunications regulator decided Wednesday to allow companies to provide mobile phone service using a homegrown wireless Internet technology known as WiBro.
WiBro, one of the world's major third-generation (3G) wireless Internet standards, is an improved version of WiMax, which enables broadband-like Web connectivity even when a user is in motion. WiMax refers to a wireless Internet technology developed by Intel Corp.
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The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) said that it made the decision in order to enable handset users to make calls at cheaper rates and to promote the use of WiBro, which will in turn help lay the groundwork for its inroads into overseas markets.
WiBro is currently used only in Internet connections on laptop computers and other mobile devices.
KT Corp., South Korea's largest fixed-line telephone operator and sole WiBro provider, has already announced its intention to enter the new market. It launched the world's first WiBro service in 2006.
Industry watchers said several others are expected to follow suit.
The KCC expects WiBro mobile phone service to begin around the end of 2009, given the time needed to make preparations.
The launch of WiBro-based mobile services is expected to stiffen competition in the country's near-saturated mobile phone industry, which is divided between three companies -- SK Telecom Co., KTF Co. and LG Telecom Inc.
The three companies already have their own 3G mobile services.
South Korea had 45.04 million mobile service users out of a population of 49 million as of July.