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Video calls to be free during Lunar New Year amid pandemic

All News 14:57 February 09, 2021

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- Video calls will be free of charge during the Lunar New Year holiday to encourage virtual family meetings, the ICT ministry said Tuesday, as the country's efforts to curb new coronavirus cases limit in-person contact.

The Ministry of Science and ICT said the country's three major telecom operators -- SK Telecom Co., KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. -- agreed to not charge for video calls made over the upcoming holiday period, which falls on Feb. 11-14 this year, for all smartphone users in the country.

Video calls to be free during Lunar New Year amid pandemic - 1

South Koreans usually celebrate the holiday with family, but the country's ban on gatherings of five or more people to prevent the virus' spread will likely restrict most family gatherings.

The companies also agreed to strengthen telecommunications support for those affected by the pandemic, such as offering students of low-income families unlimited access to smartphone education services provided by local broadcaster EBS.

The ICT ministry said it will cover monthly costs of 6,600 won (US$5.90) for the services with the three carriers.

The telecom operators also agreed to support small-business owners that have struggled from the pandemic-driven slump by providing 100 gigabytes of additional data over two months for subscribers to their data plans geared for such business owners.

The move comes after the three carriers enjoyed robust earnings last year on the back of growing 5G users and increased data demand amid the pandemic.

SK Telecom said its net profit last year jumped 74 percent thanks to its improved mobile business.

The three carriers also promised to keep up investment in 5G infrastructure in the meeting with the ICT ministry, such as establishing millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G, which leads to faster speeds, and commercializing the standalone version of 5G, which does not require support from previous 4G networks.

yunhwanchae@yna.co.kr
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