At VoIP deadline, soldiers must make the call
May 31, 2007
SEOUL — Thursday is the last day the U.S. military community in South Korea can register to make calls through U.S.-based Voice over Internet Protocol companies.
Beginning Friday, all new contracts must be made with South Korean VoIP providers, instead of U.S. companies such as Vonage or Lingo.
VoIP allows users to make calls using the Internet, usually for less than the price of calling through a telephone line.
South Korea’s major Internet service providers said last June that they would block Internet calls through companies not registered under the Korean Telecommuncations Business Act.
The companies agreed to delay enforcing the act until June 1, after U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell said it would harm servicemembers’ quality of life.
USFK officials were unavailable to comment on the changes Tuesday because of a military training holiday.
VoIP has surged in popularity in recent years largely because of its cost. Prices vary, but many U.S. companies provide a handset and charge a monthly fee of $20 to $35, which often includes local and long-distance calls to U.S. numbers. U.S. VoIP companies assign users a U.S. phone number, which means a servicemember in South Korea can be reached from the U.S. without the caller racking up international calling charges.
LG DACOM, the South Korean company that provides on-base personal Internet service, will charge $34.99 a month for unlimited VoIP calling service after June 1, and $19.99 a month for 500 minutes of calling, according to a DACOM official. If customers exceed the 500 minutes, additional calls from South Korea to the United States cost 6 cents per minute.
Calling rates from the United States to a South Korean land line or VoIP account vary depending on the U.S. service provider but can run as high as 12 cents per minute, the official said.
When the ban was about to be enforced last year, Korea Telecom said it did not have a VoIP monthly fee or calling special, and calls would have cost the same through VoIP as through a land line.
Korea Telecom, Hanaro Telecom, LG DACOM, SG Telinks, EPN, Dreamline and Onse Telecom are registered to provide VoIP services in South Korea.