The South Korean telecoms regulator, the Korean Communications Commission (KCC), has backed the government’s calls for a significant cut in the rates charged for mobile voice calls, the Korea Times reports. The country’s three wireless operators –SK Telecom, KT Corp and LG Telecom – have all claimed that such cuts would damage their business, but the regulator maintains that Koreans are paying more for their services than other countries with similar wireless penetration rates. The calls follow the publications of an OECD report in August that claimed Korea’s phone rates were higher than the average for OECD countries; the report said that the average Korean spends USD343.3 per year on voice calling and messaging, compared to the OECD average of USD335.7. ‘We will keep an earlier promise pledged by the South Korean president Lee Myung-bak to cut mobile rates by 20% by the latter half of 2010,’ said KCC Chairman Choi See-joong, adding: ‘We will be able to provide more detailed answers over the plans for rate cuts around the Chuseok holidays starting from 2 October. We are talking with the market experts and companies to come up with reasonable measures.’
According to the report, the KCC is considering a number of policy options that could force operators to offer cheaper call rates, and it is understood that some measures could be taken as early as October. Those measures reportedly include the banning of handset subsidies in exchange for cheaper rates, expanding pre-paid tariffs and the introduction of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). In a separate but related story, the Korea Times has noted that a number of credit card companies have already expressed an interest in becoming MVNOs. Financial services providers Shinhan Card and BC Card are both reported to have shown an interest in developments in the telecoms sector that will allow the entry of MVNOs; a draft bill by the KCC is currently awaiting discussion in the National Assembly, and it is thought it could gain approval by lawmakers as early as by the end of this month.