A public wifi zone will be expanded gradually across South Korea under a new government policy aimed at easing the financial burden for South Korean consumers at the expense of reduced corporate earnings.
Free public wifi access will be available at 50,000 city buses and 200,000 school campuses step-by-step from 2018 while mobile carriers should raise monthly discounts from 20 to 25 percent without losing their basic monthly subscription fee of 11,000 won, starting as early as in September.
The basic monthly subscription fee will be abolished for the elderly and low-income people population, along with other benefits.
Overall, about 4.6 trillion won (4.02 billion US dollars) will be saved through lowered service fees, according to President Moon Jae-in's policy advisory panel, the State Affairs Planning Advisory Committee.
Civic groups have insisted the cost for telecom services has been set high for decades to help South Korean firms maintain a competitive edge. They want no basic monthly subscription fee as Moon promised during his election stumping.
The Korea Telecommunications Operators Association (KTOA) grouping three mobile carriers -- SK Telecom Co., KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp -- expressed regret, insisting the new policy would erode their earnings and profitability at a time when they should move quickly to 5G services.
"It's regrettable that steps to reduce expenditures for telecom services were announced with no opportunity to discuss it," the association said in a statement.
Telecom firms have opposed any drastic measures.
In South Korea, the test bed for telecom-related technologies, telecom firms compete to commercialize a 5G network and apply 5G technologies to everyday life.
The number of 5G-network users will reach about 389 million in 2022, according to Ovum, a global market research firm, as competition is getting fierce among South Korean and foreign tech firms to commercialize it first. The speed of 5G is about 40 to 50 percent faster than the 4G (LTE) network.
Lim Chang-won = firstname.lastname@example.org
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