Friday, October 01, 2004

Korean government also assigns code for VoIP calls

From today's The Korea Herald : The Nation's No.1 English Newspaper

Government assigns access code for VoIP calls

The Ministry of Information and Communication yesterday revealed a plan to promote Internet-based telephony services by creating a dedicated dialing code for voice-over-Internet protocol calls.

The IP-only prefix, 070, could be used anywhere in the country and will be assigned to operators providing services that meet the quality requirements set by the Telecommunications Technology Association.

The association will require operators to provide services with a minimum 70 rating, a voice quality evaluation standard used by the International Telecommunication Union, that translates to greater than 95 percent connection success rate. Signals must be transmitted to receivers within 1.5 seconds.

However, the government will not allow the Internet telephony prefix code to be added to fixed-line subscribers' existing numbers, as in the case of countries such as the United Kingdom, forcing them to change numbers when switching to VoIP services.

"Considering that the 070 prefix will be used without geographical boundaries throughout the country, we are not expecting much public reluctance in switching to VoIP considering the country's broadband penetration rate," said Yoon Yang-soo, an official from the Information Ministry's Telecommunications Service Development Division.

The numbering system is part of the ministry's new regulations on Internet-based telephony services that go into effect this month.

Companies may register for VoIP licenses starting today and current service providers must apply for a license renewal within 90 days from now if they wish to use the 070 prefix. This would allow some companies to use the access code as early as late October considering the association's reviewing period, ministry officials said.

However, fixed-line operators controlling the broadband backbone networks and telephony infrastructure, such as servers and routers, most notably KT Corp. and Hanarotelecom Inc., will be allowed to use the 070 prefix starting next year.

The ministry will set the VoIP interconnection rates, the charges imposed on Internet telephony companies accessing backbone networks, by the end of this year. With difficulties in tracking down traffic and evaluating the costs of IP-based services, the ministry is considering a revenue sharing model for interconnection payments.

VoIP is a technology that enables voice signals to be sent over the Internet. VoIP services could provide cheaper voice services for consumers and allow access to high-tech features such as video-telephony and datacasting. The government believes Internet telephony can increase competition in the slowing traditional telephone and broadband Internet market, with the comparatively low cost for technology setting a low entry barrier for new companies.

Government officials predict Korea will complete its transition to IP-based telephony by 2010, while generating 5.3 trillion won ($4.6 billion) in service revenue by then.

After Serome C&T Inc. launched its personal computer-based telephone service in 2000, Internet telephony grew to a 39.1 billion won ($33.9 million) market in 2003 with more than 200,000 subcribers.

Fixed-line carriers such as KT and Hanarotelecom provide Internet telephony over their broadband networks, while software developers such as Serome C&T and Great Human Software offer PC-to-PC connections. KT and long-distance operator Dacom Corp. also use IP networks for their international call services.


By Kim Tong-hyung

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