Mobile Number Portability hits record high

SEOUL, Oct. 29 (Yonhap) -- Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in South Korea hit a record high over the past weekend as local mobile carriers lured subscribers with new pay plans and lower prices, industry sources said Tuesday.

According to the sources, the country's three mobile carriers -- SK Telecom Co., KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. -- received a total of 128,176 MNP applications during the Oct. 26-28 period, exceeding the previous record high of 116,055 MNP applications last April.

The figure translates into around 42,725 mobile telephone users changing from one mobile network to another while retaining their mobile telephone numbers.

The country's telecom regulators regard some 24,000 MNP cases a day as a sign that the market is in "overheated competition."

The sources said the high MNP is attributed to local mobile operators offering new pay plans that prod mobile phone users to switch to plans that fit their needs. Also, mobile handset makers cut prices of some of their devices to woo mobile phone holders into upgrading their gadgets, they said.

In July, the country's communications watchdog imposed a business suspension on the country's No. 2 mobile carrier, and fined it and two other rivals for providing excessive subsidies to lure customers.

KT Corp. was banned from attracting new customers for seven days in August, as it is judged to have led an overheated competition in the local telecom market, and it was fined 20.2 billion won (US$18.85 million).

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) also slapped fines of 36.4 billion won and 10.2 billion won, respectively, on industry leader SK Telecom Co. and the smallest player LG Uplus Corp.

The move was the latest in a series of government efforts to clamp down on excessive subsidies in a saturated market where mobile carriers are launching aggressive marketing to keep up growth.

In December last year, the watchdog also levied a combined 11.9 billion won in fines on the three companies in addition to business suspensions ranging from 20 to 24 days.

Under a set of measures introduced in 2010, the watchdog recommends mobile carriers limit subsidies to 270,000 won per person.

Critics have raised claims that the amount should be revised in line with the rising price of new smartphones. Flagship models manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. are usually priced at over the 800,000-won level.

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