Korea's major telco blocks Skype on 3G network
SEOUL, Dec 07, 2010 (The Korea Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
KT, a major telecom operator in South Korea and the sole provider of Apple's iPhone and iPad, has blocked many of its subscribers from using free mobile Internet phone services such as Viber and Skype over its 3G network.
The newly placed restriction on free Internet telephone services -- known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) -- on mobile phones indicate the growing concern of telecom operators faced with new competition from alternative service providers.
But the logic works the other way for iPhone and other smartphone subscribers. In contrast to pricey mobile call services, especially concerning international calls, Viber and Skype are extremely affordable and convenient.
On Monday, KT began to shut off Internet telephony services including Skype, Viber and Fring on the 3G network. KT's iPhone users, however, are not treated equally: Those who have signed up for a monthly plan that exceeds 55,000 won will be allowed to continue to use VoIP on their iPhones and other smartphones; other subscribers with less expensive plans will be blocked from using the free services.
KT stressed that even though the restriction will be applied to the 3G network, it will allow both groups to use VoIP services freely on its Wi-Fi network.
Subscribers, however, are now forced to sign up for more expensive monthly plans if they want to save their call charges by using free Internet phone services.
KT said that Skype and Viber are "free-riding" on its 3G network, which costs plenty of money to build up and maintain.
SK Telecom, a rival to KT, made a similar move in August, blocking free Internet phone services for subscribers with a monthly plan of 45,000 won or lower.
Skype is estimated to be used by more than 1 million users in Korea. Viber, which made an impressive debut on Nov. 25, climbed to the No. 1 slot in the free app category in just two weeks on Apple's Korean App Store.
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