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Korea fails to pick 4th mobile carrier

Years-long efforts by the Korean government to license the nation’s fourth mobile carrier went down to the drain again on Friday as the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning failed to find an eligible candidate.

“All the three bidders did not meet the criteria for the license,” said the ministry, adding that the companies overall were incapable of raising funds and presented no detailed plans to run the business. 

(From left) Logos of mobile carriers KT, SK Telecom, and LG Uplus. (Yonhap)
(From left) Logos of mobile carriers KT, SK Telecom, and LG Uplus. (Yonhap)

The announcement came after months of bidding and assessment processes with three applicants -- Sejong Telecom, K Mobile and Quantum Mobile— since last October.

The government since 2010 had sought to bring in a fourth player in Korea‘s mobile network sector, long dominated by SKT, KT and LG Uplus, with the aim of improving services for subscribers through increased competition. This is the seventh time that the ministry failed to find an eligible candidate to run the mobile network business, which according to market estimates would require more than 2.3 trillion won ($1.9 billion) to start.

In line with its initiatives to help ease financial burdens on households caused by expensive mobile bills, the ministry has licensed 38 mobile virtual network operators, which offer cheaper mobile services.

MVNOs are wireless communications services provider which do not own networks but borrow them from three mobile carriers SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus.

By Kim Young-won(