KOREA: Samsung networks launches internet-based mobile phone

VoIP mobile phone service enables Koreans to call using ubiquitous WiFi Internet network, cuts costs

The Korea Times
Thursday, January 24, 2008

By Cho Jin-seo

Samsung Networks has launched the first Voice-over-Internet (VoIP) service for mobile phone in Korea, a move that facilitates competition to cut phone charges.

The "Samsung Wyz 070" service enables mobile phone users to make and receive calls using the WiFi wireless Internet network, the most widely used wireless local-area network (LAN), easily found in urban homes, offices, schools, cafes and other public places.

The mobile VoIP charges only 39 won for a 3-minute domestic call much cheaper than ordinary mobile phone calls that cost between nine to 40 won for every 10 seconds of outgoing calls. Furthermore, it is free of charge when making calls within one's network, such as a company, Samsung said. The VoIP phone automatically switches to the non-VoIP mode when it goes out of the WiFi coverage.

The Wyz 070 service is only available for corporate users who use Samsung Electronics' Blackjack smartphones, the company said. But it will be expanded to more models, such as Blackberry, said Jeong Hye-lim, the firm's spokeswoman.

"We only have Blackjack now because it is the only handset in South Korea that is capable of using WiFi," said Jeong, general manager of public relations. "Other WiFi models, such as Blackberry, can be used for the service once they are introduced to Korea and they are equipped with our software applications."

The launching of the first mobile VoIP phone is likely to get a warm welcome from Korean consumers. Three mobile companies -- SK Telecom, KTF and LG Telecom -- have been blamed for taking easy profits from users by sharing the mobile service market under the umbrella of the government. Consumer groups and politicians have pressured the government to open up regulation barriers for new companies and new services that can stimulate competitions in the market.

The VoIP has been long used on PCs and home and office phones. Before the dot-com bubble, Korea's Serome Technology introduced the service under the name of Dialpad, which offers free domestic and international calls using the broadband Internet line. Most recently, Skype has become a norm for VoIP services for expatriates to call home.

In Korea, Samsung Networks, LG Dacom and several others are offering the cheap VoIP phone services for homes and offices. Such services were not very popular because people often found it cumbersome to use the VoIP prefix, 070, every time they made a call. But the firms believe that their business will prosper when the government releases them from the 070 rule in the first half of this year and allows VoIP users keep their old phone numbers.

The development of wireless Internet network has prompted the VoIP firms to set eyes on mobile phones. Skype has introduced a VoIP mobile phone in Europe that uses the third-generation networks of mobile operators.

Samsung Networks, a subsidiary of Samsung Group, said that the firm will expand the coverage to 3G and Mobile WiMax networks in the future.