KT Looks To Merge Mobile Phone With Landlines
By Mike Masnick, Thu Jun 17 00:30:00 GMT 2004

While many traditional telcos are worried about the customers moving completely to mobile phones, some are hoping to merge the two to ease the transition.

A few months ago, Cingular received plenty of attention in the US for their FastForward offering, that allowed mobile phone numbers to easily forward calls to a landline. If you owned a supported phone, you could simply pop the phone into a cradle, and Cingular would automatically forward the calls. The service costs $3/month, but includes unlimited forwarding, and those minutes don't count against your plan.

It looks like KT, the dominant landline telco in South Korea, is looking to offer something similar. They announced their "One Phone" service today. The concept is the same -- allow a subscriber to receive calls on the mobile network outside of the home, and on their landline inside the home -- though the implementation appears to be slightly different.

For the KT system, you use a single phone (provided by Samsung) and an access point which uses Bluetooth to connect to the phone. This way, the phone will automatically use the landline if it is within Bluetooth range of the access point, and doesn't require the subscriber to do anything.

KT has been working on this solution for some time. Initially it was delayed after they discovered that producing the special terminals and access points was more complicated than they expected. Once that problem was solved, however, they had to deal with regulatory issues. Since KT is such a dominant wireline presence (over 90% of the local landline market) and a strong mobile player (owning nearly half of the country's number two wireless carrier) regulators and competitors alike feared how a bundled solution would impact the market. As part of the agreement to allow the One Phone service to move forward, the government is requiring that KT open up their landline networks so other mobile providers can offer the same sort of solution. KT also isn't allowed to offer any kind of bundled discount for the service, though that might not matter. Since the cost of landline calls is 1/9 the cost of a mobile phone call, there may be plenty of incentive for people to sign up as is.