Posted : 2012-12-03 16:38
Updated : 2012-12-03 16:38

KCC warns against illegal subsidies for iPhone 5

iPhone 5

By Kim Yoo-chul

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the nation's top telecom regulator, said Monday that the government agency will punish SK Telecom and KT if they offer illegal subsidies to attract more iPhone 5 customers.

''The KCC will start a thorough investigation of the carriers from Dec. 7 ― the date Apple's latest iPhone comes onto the market ― as we believes chances are high that the carriers will offer illegal subsidies to attract more customers. That's against the law,'' said an official from the agency.

Earlier the same day, the KCC summoned marketing executives of the companies and ordered them not to give excessive subsidies for the new Apple handsets, the official said.

Executives from the local carriers confirmed they were warned by the regulator but their representatives declined to confirm it citing the sensitivity of the issue.

The plan by the KCC comes after some local distributors and retailers have already begun providing big subsidies to customers pre-ordering with the condition to change carrier.

''We can't help but to continue giving subsidies to attract more customers and to prevent our customers from flocking to KT,'' said Baek Jong-min, a salesclerk at Yongsan Electronics Market in Seoul ― the biggest wholesale electronics market in Korea located near Yongsan Station.

''That's why SK Telecom and KT are not too concerned about the possible penalties by the regulator. This is a bread-and-butter issue,'' Baek stressed by telephone.

The suggested retail price of the 16GB iPhone 5 is 814,000 won. But customers who promise to change carrier can get the phone for about 400,000 won with the subsidies.

The two carriers received more than 200,000 pre-orders for the new handset in just two hours after they were made available on Nov. 30, according to KCC officials.

And the government agency expects pre-orders to exceed 700,000 by Dec. 7, reflecting a huge stand-by demand from customers whose two-year contracts for the iPhone 3GS, released in November 2009, have expired.

SK Telecom and KT ― the nation's two official distributors of Apple mobile devices ― are widely expected to continue their illegal marketing activities to achieve this year's smartphone sales goal and to increase average revenue per user (ARPU), a critical measurement to gauge the profitability of carriers.

''Because the iPhone 5 supports long-term evolution (LTE) mobile technology for the first time in Apple's history, more iPhone 5 users mean more leverage in the race for LTE-enabled smartphones,'' said an SK Telecom official, adding he believes his company will continue offering more subsidies than rival KT.

Separately, the KCC has been investigating reports of illegal marketing activities by the nation's three carriers including the smallest LG Uplus since October.

It's expected that the regulator will ban the carriers from signing up new customers for a week for violating rules related to handset subsidies, according to KCC officials.

관련 한글 기사

방통위, `아이폰 5 불법 보조금 조사'

방송통신위원회 (이하 방통위)가 아이폰5에 대한 이동통신사의 보조금 과열 경쟁에 대한 실태 조사에 착수키로 했다.

아이폰5가 시장에 풀리기도 전 일부 대리점에서 예약 판매를 진행하면서 불법 보조금을 더 얹어주는 정황을 포착했기 때문. 그러나 실태 조사가 실질적인 제재로 이어지기는 어려울 것으로 보인다.

방통위는 3일 ``아이폰5로 인해 시장이 과열될 가능성이 있다'며 ``오는 7일 아이폰5가 출시된 이후 보조금 과잉 여부에 대해 실태조사를 벌일 것''이라고 밝혔다.

방통위는 이번 실태 조사는 지난 9월부터 실시하고 있는 보조금 단속의 연장선상에서 진행된다고 강조했다. 아이폰5만 대상으로 따로 실태 조사를 진행하는 것은 아니라는 뜻이다.

방통위는 이날 오전 KT와 SK텔레콤의 마케팅 담당자를 불러 아이폰5로 시장이 과열되지 않도록 조심하라고 구두로 경고했다. 시장 조사가 진행되는 상황에서 보조금 과잉 지급 사례가 적발되면 강경조치한다고 미리 엄포를 놓은 것.

이에 대해 이통사들은 시장 안정화가 필요하다는 데 공감한다며 과열 방지에 힘쓰겠다는 원론적인 입장만 되풀한 것으로 알려졌다.

한편 일부 대리점에서는 이통사의 공식 보조금 13만원과 자체 보조금 23만원을 더해 최대 36만원까지 할인해 45만원대에 아이폰5(16GB)를 예약 판매하는 등의 공동 구매를 인터넷 카페에서 진행하고 있다.

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