CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea struck a deal with its on-base Internet provider that preserves current troops’ ability to use U.S.-based voice-over Internet Protocol companies to make international phone calls, USFK announced Tuesday.
Servicemembers stationed in South Korea before June 1, 2007, can continue using U.S. companies such as Vonage and Lingo to make international calls, according to a memo signed by USFK commander Gen. B.B. Bell.
“We insisted on a ‘grandfather clause’ for current users of non-registered VoIP services,” Bell wrote.
Servicemembers arriving in South Korea after June 1 will be required to use a South Korean VoIP provider, according to the memo.
“Your local (Army Air Force Exchange Service) concessionaires will be providing registered VoIP services that are comparable in price and level to service found with popular U.S.-based VoIP providers,” Bell added.
South Korea’s major Internet service providers, including LG DACOM, which contracts its Internet backbone to on-base contractor SSRT, said in June that they would block Internet calls through companies not registered under the Korean Telecommunications Business Act.
The companies agreed to postpone action after Bell decried the move as harmful to servicemembers’ quality of life.
VoIP has surged in popularity during the past year because of its prices, servicemembers have said.
Pricing schemes vary, but many companies provide a handset and charge a monthly fee of $20 to $35.
Calls to the United States and some other worldwide locations then often cost the same or less than local calls. Other VoIP formats without traditional phone handsets cost as little as 2 cents per minute.
When the prospective ban was about to take effect in June, Korea Telecom said it did not offer a set VoIP monthly fee or calling specials. Calls would have cost the same through VoIP as through a land line, the company said.
Korea Telecom, Hanaro Telecom, LG DACOM, SG Telinks, EPN, Dreamline and Onse Telecom are the companies registered to offer VoIP services in South Korea.