Friday, February 19, 2010

South Korea - Regulator Pushing to Cut Smartphone Bill

[korea times] The chief of the nation's top telecommunication regulator said it will push local telecom carriers to cut the bills of smartphone users.

Choi See-joong, chairman of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), also said the government agency has been in internal talks to lower the burden for the users at a time when the local smartphone market is on an expansionary track.

"Over the issue of smartphone bills, there would be a controversy over the next few months. Amid the fast proliferation of mobile Internet, KCC will push carriers to launch various bill plans," the top official said Thursday.

The remarks came on the sidelines of his participation in the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the world's biggest telecommunication exhibition held in Barcelona, Spain.

"KCC still hopes the phone charges to be lowered by 20 percent on average. But that's the tough target due to the boon for smartphones," Choi said.

"Smartphone users will experience various benefits under the mobile Internet interface. Considering the new wave, carriers should introduce more diversified bill plans."

But Choi said the KCC will actively interfere in the local mobile market if they continue the current stiff marketing competition to attract new smartphone customers.

According to the data from KCC and telecom carriers, the nation's top three carriers spent 8.6 trillion won only for marketing last year. Due to the smartphone frenzy, the carriers are expected to allocate more on the campaign, avoiding investment in R&Ds.

The demand for smartphones in the South Korean market is expected to reach 4 million units in 2010 with bigger local telecom carriers and handset vendors revising up their sales targets.

This represents an eight-fold rise from last year's 500,000 units.

Since the arrival of Apple's iPhone in the local market late last year, all major telecom carriers including SK Telecom and handset vendors such as Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are heavily betting on the smartphone sector by realigning their corporate strategies or injecting more capital for software-related strength.

The KCC chairman pledged the agency will not drop WiBro business and added it will take the "two-track strategy" ― WiBro and Long Term Evolution (LTE) ― for the mobile technologies.

"Should South Korea be the test-bed for both technologies, KCC won't drop WiBro," according to Choi.

SK Telecom and KT are planning to invest more in WiBro services after the regulator clarified that it would give a "golden frequency band (800/900MHz)" to a carrier who allocates bigger budgets for WiBro.

WiBro, short for "wireless broadband," is the local variant of the mobile WiMax. The technology has virtually failed to appeal to customers due to limited coverage.

The service, launched in June 2006, is only available in and around Seoul, and a few other cities on a limited basis.

The chairman said it will invest 370 billion won to spur the mobile growth and meet the heads of telecom carriers and handset vendors for the development of the Korean version of App Stores.

Regulator Pushing to Cut Smartphone Bill

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