The monthly unlimited data schemes for handsets running on the fourth-generation Long Term Evolution networks have been the talk of town since their debut last week.
LG Uplus, the smallest of the nation’s three mobile carriers, was the first to announce the new unlimited data usage plan for LTE smartphone owners, with the plan starting from 95,000 won.
|An LTE logo sits on display at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. (Bloomberg)|
The move was immediately followed by KT on the same day, featuring a similar monthly usage scheme.
However, it took longer for industry leader SK Telecom to make the move with its unlimited data usage plan rolling out on Saturday.
The introduction of the so-called “unlimited” data schemes means that subscribers will be able to freely use the telecoms’ networks such as to download Full High Definition quality movies with their wireless gadgets or use the networks with multiple devices.
Although LG Uplus officials said it took the firm two months and repeated simulations to make its data plan public, many are questioning why the mobile carriers have chosen to proceed with the plans.
Unlimited data schemes for LTE smartphones seemed to have been out of the picture for months following the establishment of nationwide 4G LTE networks.
Citing network overload and user inconvenience, local telecoms insisted that there would be no unlimited data for LTE handsets. The low profit margin was also said to be one of the primary reasons for rejecting the free-use data plans.
LG Uplus and KT, however, said they would offer limitless data for those subscribing to monthly plans of about 100,000 won and above.
SKT is going a step further and offering additional discounts for loyal customers that have stuck with the telecom for more than 18 months.
“This is certainly a change in stance considering that there were voices within the companies that the unlimited data plans must be put to an end for their third-generation network services in the past,” said an industry insider.
A similar data plan for 3G smartphones was launched by SKT in August 2010 and was copied by its two competitors soon after.
SKT excluded such a plan in its monthly payment scheme for LTE smartphones last year.
The rest of the industry followed suit.
Observers say the government’s decision to hand them business suspensions of up to 24 days on top of costly fines is what impacted the telecoms’ decision. The disciplinary action was taken over mobile carriers’ subsidization of smartphone purchases.
The business suspension period for LG Uplus, which got the longest term, ended Wednesday with SKT up next from Jan. 31-Feb. KT will be banned from operation from Feb. 22 -March 13.
It has been reported that SKT took about 78,381 customers from LG Uplus during its business suspension term Jan. 7-Jan. 30. In total, LG Uplus is estimated to have lost more than 113,000 customers.
“This leads many to believe that the war staged to lure a greater number of customers will only spice up during the operation suspension period for the telecoms,” said an industry source. “I’m just excited to see what more is to come in the next few months.”
By Cho Ji-hyun (email@example.com