The Korea Herald


Will Kakao Talk launch Internet calls in Korea?

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 4, 2012 - 15:35

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Telecoms watch mobile messenger’s move to offer mobile voice service in Japan this year

Local telecoms are keeping a close watch on the country’s top mobile messenger Kakao Talk as it plans to launch mobile Internet call services in Japan early this year.

In a recent interview with The Korea Herald, Lee Sir-goo, who jointly heads Kakao Talk with chief executive Lee Jae-beom, said the company plans on featuring the service for the first time in Japan.

“We’re not gearing up to launch the service in Korea due to many conditions, but we expect to showcase the service in Japan and watch for feedback,” he said.

The free voice service by Kakao Talk has been contentious as telecoms have wrestled with the surging popularity of free mobile messengers that they claim increasingly jam networks and snatch away data fees.

With Kakao Talk already garnering more than 30 million users ― only 6 million of them being overseas users ― mobile carriers have felt threatened as it has already largely replaced text messaging.

SK Telecom, the nation’s No. 1 telecom, established a new system called the AOM server, or Always on Management server, in a bid to control the traffic triggered by the use of mobile messengers last year.

“The server plays the middleman role between our customers and the servers of mobile messengers like Kakao Talk and NateOn, preparing for the push signals that alert people about their newly-arrived messages,” said an SKT official.

SKT is not collecting any fees for the AOM server at this point because no conclusion has been reached about its network management. But it believes the server has a “win-win effect” because it eases and controls the traffic on the firm’s networks, according to the official.

KT Corp. is also getting ready to soon feature a new server of a similar kind, said a KT official.

“We introduced a technology called signaling that monitors the mobile apps, enabling us to make suggestions to the app developers if we’re warned that a certain app triggers too much traffic,” the official said. “We could also make suggestions like optimizing the app another time for decreased traffic.”

Industry sources, however, remained skeptical about the voice service launch in Japan, saying it is vital to have a precise understanding of the market before going ahead with a launch.

“Although the country is ranked No. 1 in terms of data usage, people in Korea, as an exemplary case, were able to widely use the mobile messenger Kakao Talk because of the strong networks,” said an industry source who wished to be unidentified. “The service in Japan will be ineffective if the infrastructure can’t back it up.”

Another industry source said the voice service would be available only for limited use here even if Kakao decides to introduce it in its homeland.

Viber and Daum’s MyPeople, a service through which people can make voice calls through the Internet, only became available for subscribers to the monthly plan of 55,000 won or more for KT and 54,000 won or more for SKT after stirring controversy last year.

By Cho Ji-hyun (