Good news for Apple and many millions of South Korea’s gadget enthusiasts. It’s all but official. You can add the South Korean flag to the list of iPhone countries! South Korea may not have the massive numbers that China boasts (700 million wireless consumers), but they do have mature 3G networks and 46 million wireless consumers who are active users of advance wireless services.
For the past few months KT (formerly Korea Telecom) has been dropping hints that they have an iPhone deal with Apple. However, they have been careful to temper any “deal” news with qualifiers (e.g. “must pass regulatory approvals” … “still negotiating”, etc.). It appears that key regulatory hurdles have now been cleared from iPhone’s path.
On September 23rd the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) dropped their cumbersome location-based services (LBS) restrictions and approved iPhone for sale in Korea. As KCC spokesman Lee Tae-hee explained (via The Korea Times); “The commission has endorsed the local sale of the iPhone and the launch of its service within the limits of the law.” … ”If Apple includes location based-related details as a form of an agreement to its strategic partners such as KT [Korea Telecom], Apple’s iPhone can give location-related services here.”
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing unnamed KT (Korea Telecom) officials, said KT plans to start selling iPhones in South Korea next month (October). Adding credence to a near-term deal/launch is a quote last week from KT spokesman Yeom Woo-jong: “We will try to release the iPhone as soon as possible.”
There’s more … Reutuers carried a post yesterday (Sept 27, 2009) which quoted KT executive Pyo Hyun-myung; “Although the date and other details for iPhone’s South Korean debut have yet to be set, the iPhone will likely create its own market segment among the country’s smartphone users and may help jumpstart healthy competition.”
And now today’s (Sept 28, 2009) Korea Herald has some detail on KT’s new iPhone service plans. According to the report, Korea’s second largest wireless carrier (KT) plans to offer four (4) price packages for iPhone. The packages comprise voice, data and messaging services and will cost 35,000 won (USD $29.5), 45,000 won, 65,000 won and 95,000 won.
The Herald reports that iPhone will launch in Korea “as early as next month.” According to a KT spokesman; “We reported four new smartphone pricing plans to the Korea Communications Commission on Sept. 25, which we hope to start in mid-October.”
While plan rates are set, KT said it has yet to decide the pricing of the iPhone, saying it is negotiating iPhone subsidies with Apple.
In separate but related news, Daum Communications, Korea’s No. 2 web portal, is about to make a big splash with its employees. As soon as iPhone launches, Daum plans to give away the highest spec iPhone 3GS (32 GB) to all 1,000 of its employees. Included in the Chuseok gift (“Korean Thanksgiving”) will be iPhone data plans for two years.
Daum sells two applications for video-sharing and map services on Apple’s App Store. Hmmm? Perhaps Daum will soon be expanding its iPhone-related business?