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Carriers get creative to offer more data for less

May 31,2018
Mobile carriers are getting creative with their phone plans as the Moon Jae-in administration pushes companies to lower household phone bills.

KT on Wednesday launched three new phone plans that offer customers unlimited data at cheaper prices than existing plans. The cheapest plan announced during a press briefing in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, costs 49,000 won ($45) per month, considerably cheaper than the current options, which are all over 60,000 won.

The mobile carrier said it has completely changed the way it packages data and other mobile services, creating a new subscription program called “Data ON.”

Before the launch of Data ON, KT’s most popular subscription packages were data-centric options that were bundled with free voice calls and text messages. Price tags on these packages ranged from 32,890 won to 109,890 won depending on how much data subscribers chose to consume per month.

With Data ON, the company has decided to fine-tune its range, offering just three different plans. All three plans come up with unlimited data as well as free calls and text messages. Instead of sacrificing how much data they receive, users instead choose how fast they want that data to be. With cheaper packages, data speeds will slow once a certain quota has been used.

The cheapest plan, dubbed Data ON Talk, targets customers that mainly use data for messenger apps like KakaoTalk. Users will have unlimited access to data for the whole month, but speeds will fall to 1 megabit per second after 3 gigabytes of data have been used up each month.

According to KT, 1 megabit per second is still fast enough to watch a standard definition YouTube video.

The second-tier plan, dubbed Data ON Video, costs 69,000 won per month and is aimed at heavy video watchers. KT will offer 100 gigabytes of basic data and, when users use it up their data, speeds will fall to 5 megabits per second.

The most expensive plan, Data ON Premium at 89,000 won, is a truly unlimited data program without any slowdown in data speeds. Currently, even the most expensive phone plans limit data speeds after a certain threshold is passed.

“We expect the majority of existing KT subscribers and, hopefully, some from other carriers to move to our Data ON plans by the end of June,” said Park Hyun-jin, head of the telecommunications business unit at KT.

Competitors SK Telecom and LG U+ have also been busy amending their phone plans to lower the burden on household phone bills autonomously.

LG U+ was quicker than KT in releasing a truly unlimited data plan that does not compromise on speed. It launched the 88,000 won program in February.

SK Telecom promised to offer unlimited membership points to all its subscribers in March. The membership points are used at affiliated stores including major bakery chains and theme parks to get price discounts.

Change is also afoot in the roaming rates offered by carriers.

KT on Wednesday promised to cut voice call rates on roaming by an average 95 percent to 1.98 won per second including tax. Previously, calls from the United States to Korea cost about 36.1 won per second.

LG U+ released a truly unlimited data roaming plan on Monday that costs 13,200 won per day. SK Telecom started offering three minutes of free voice or video calls per day for all roaming service users in March.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]