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2009/11/18 14:50 KST
S. Korean telecom watchdog approves sale of Apple's iPhone

SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's telecom regulator approved Wednesday the local sale of Apple Inc.'s iPhone, paving the way for the U.S. company to make inroads into a market long dominated by domestic handset makers.

   The Korea Communications Commission said its policymakers decided to grant Apple a license to run location-base services on the iPhone in the country.

   Currently, cellphone makers or mobile carriers should be registered as providers of the location-base service, which enable them to locate callers, before being allowed to sell the handsets with such a service here.

   Bringing the iPhone to South Korea has proved a slow process as the South Korean government had earlier addressed concerns over the potential privacy violation of the iPhone's location-base services such as "Maps" and "FindMyiPhone."

   The commission has concluded that infringements of privacy would only be minimal, as the services on the iPhone are provided in a way that can not differentiate one user from another, officials at the commission said.

   The popular iPhone is expected to hit the South Korean market as soon as the commission gives Apple the license next week, according to industry sources.

   Sources said KT Corp., South Korea's second-largest mobile carrier, will begin selling service plans for the phone on Nov. 28.

   With the iPhone's entrance into the South Korean market, local manufacturers Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc., both major players in the global mobile phone market, will be competing for local customers.

   Research In Motion Ltd. and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications Inc. earlier this year began selling their own versions of the smartphone in the country, but failed to have much impact on the market.

   Fierce competition is likely not only among the handset makers, but also among mobile carriers over the iPhone launch.

   Market leader SK Telecom Co. fears that KT's exclusive sale of the iPhone, popular among younger tech-savvy customers, may erode its market share. SK Telecom said it has made no decision on selling iPhones.