The government is considering allowing voice communication through wireless broadband networks, dubbed as WiBro here, which could bring a new competitive sector in the matured domestic telecommunications market.
The Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the country’s telecommunications and broadcasting regulator, recently asked researchers at Korea Information Society Development (KISDI) to investigate the long-term effects to the telecom market if voice is allowed on WiBro and subscribers are allocated their own call numbers.
This indicates a departure from previous stance of Ministry of Information and Communication, KCC’s predecessor, which had maintained disallowing voice calls on wireless broadband services over fears that it may hurt the profitability of wireless telephony operators.
However, with the current Lee Myung-bak government pressuring policymakers to come up with ideas to lessen the burden for consumers on telecommunications spending, allowing voice on WiBro seems to be one of the ideas considered.
And with WiBro gathering only 200,000 customers two years after its commercial launch, the industry experts have been pointing out the lack of a “killer application.”
“We will be studying a wide rang of subjects, including allowing call numbers on WiBro and lowering molbile-phone call rates,” said a KISDI official.
“Allowing voice on WiBro may have a huge impact on the mobile telephony industry and other telecommunications sectors, so it is an issue that needs careful investigation,” he said.
The allowing of cheaper voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) calls on laptop computers and other WiBro-enabled receivers may draw resistance from the country’s three mobile telephony operators.
The WiBro services, the Korean version of WiMax, are currently provided by KT, the country’s biggest fixed-line telephony operator and broadband Internet provider, and SK Telecom, the No. 1 wireless carrier.
KISDI is expected to produce a report some time between September and October. The KCC could grant a license to a company to provide voice calls over WiBro as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), leasing the networks of KT and SK Telecom, by the end of the year, sources said.