SEOUL, June 8 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korean mobile carriers are bracing for a possible shake-up of phone bills, as the government inches towards scrapping what are known as basic charges, fees that have been a key driver of profits for telecom companies in the past.
After years of criticism and complaints, pressure from newly-elected President Moon Jae-in’s administration has brought the scrapping of basic charges closer to realization than ever, as a special presidential advisory committee for state affairs planning yesterday urged the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) to speed up the process, saying, “Submit to us a plan that shows how to fulfill the objective of reducing phone bills and scrap basic charges by this weekend.”
It was a clear message that the special advisory committee, which also works as a presidential transition team, sent to the MSIP yesterday, showing a significant shift in attitude towards the issue compared to earlier this month.
In a meeting with the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) held June 1, Lee Gae-ho from the advisory committee appeared to have taken a step back as he emphasized that mutual interest between telecom providers and customers must be respected during the process of finding common ground.
Some argue that the new, more proactive attitude is in part due to the appointment of Kim Yong-soo, the new vice-minister of the MSIP.
The special committee is also set to meet with officials from mobile carriers and consumer interest groups, a move that comes in the wake of rather lukewarm cooperation shown on the MSIP’s part in recent weeks.
Major mobile network operators such as SKT and KT are against the scrapping of the monthly basic charge of 11,000 won, without which mobile providers could end up in the red, limiting their investment capability in new technology including 5th generation mobile networks.
“There is no appropriate alternative at the moment. Instead of reducing phone bills across the board, a much more realistic approach to the issue would be increasing benefits tailored for each group such as prioritizing the socially marginalized or lifting a cap on data usage for heavy data users,” an industry official said.