The Korea Herald


Science Ministry to cancel license of Stage X as new mobile carrier

By Jie Ye-eun

Published : June 14, 2024 - 16:46

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Second Vice Minister of of Science and ICT Kang Do-hyun speaks during a press briefing at the Government Complex Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap). Second Vice Minister of of Science and ICT Kang Do-hyun speaks during a press briefing at the Government Complex Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap).

South Korea's Science Ministry said Friday that it will revoke the license of new mobile carrier Stage X for failing to meet legal requirements to run the business, including paid-in capital of 205 billion won ($149 million) that was due last month.

The Ministry of Science and ICT will carry out a hearing on Stage X's case to finalize its decision on canceling the designation of the firm as a frequency allocation target corporation.

Stage X had been expected to become the country's fourth mobile carrier, joining SK Telecom, KT Corp. and LG Uplus.

In January, Stage X, a consortium comprising mobile virtual network operator Stage Five and other partners, secured the 28-gigahertz spectrum band for the 5G network in an auction hosted by the ministry with a bid of 430.1 billion won.

The issue arose from Stage X's inability to pay the full capital and discrepancies in the ownership ratios of major shareholders compared to what was stated in the frequency allocation application, according to Second Vice Science Minister Kang Do-hyun.

Despite the ministry's requests for additional explanations and compliance from the company, the problems remain unresolved, he added.

The Science Ministry judged that this violated the pledge that constituent shareholders and share ownership ratios not be changed without the ministry's approval and that the financing plan described in the allocation application document would be faithfully implemented.

"We concluded the capital raising claimed by Stage X could not be trusted and that it would be difficult to properly carry out the business if the capital specified in the allocation application was not properly secured," Kang said.

"Considering expected future concerns of partners such as equipment manufacturers, investors and users, we concluded that cancellation of the selection of companies subject to allocation was inevitable."

As a result, the government's ambitious attempt for the launch of a fourth mobile carrier has returned to the starting block. The project, first promoted in 2010 during the Lee Myung-bak administration, suffered hardships seven times until 2016. All of the interested companies dropped out due to concerns over their financial soundness.

At Friday's briefing, the second vice minister hinted that the ministry would go through institutional supplementation issues and may even consider another auction for the 28-gigahertz spectrum band for the 5G network, if necessary.

Meanwhile, Seo Sang-won, a representative of Stage X, on the same day said that he believes the ministry's claims to cancel the fourth mobile carrier license are unreasonable, but that he would do his best during the hearing process.

"We submitted a plan to the government and are proceeding accordingly, but they suddenly ignore it and say it is wrong. If I understand the government’s argument, I will accept it, but I think it is unreasonable," he said.