In a move that has critics crying that it is ignoring net neutrality principles, South Korean regulators have decided to let mobile operators, charge users extra fees for VOIP applications or block their use entirely.
Korea's top mVoIP app, KakaoTalk, has gained rapid popularity among smartphone users. Other players in the mVoIP market include Microsoft's Skype, Google Voice, Fring, Line 2 as well as other independent and operator-driven services, according to Infonetics Research.
With widespread use of these mobile applications adding data traffic and cutting into their text and voice profits, the major Korean operators – SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus - have decided to raise prices for data usage.
As the country's regulator is allowing the telcos to charge for use of apps such as KakaoTalk, some are claiming that this is a violation of net neutrality rules.
"This will set a precedent for coming apps such as FaceTime, where SKT and KT already said they will apply the same pricing policy as with local apps, and this can clash with global players like Apple and Google," said Jiho Park, an activist with the Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice.
Apple's FaceTime is only available on Wi-Fi networks now but with iOS6 this fall, people will be able to use it over 3G or 4G LTE, too.
SK Telecom and KT currently offer unlimited data plans, which allow users to freely download apps on their networks, whereas LG U+ used to block over-the-top programs entirely.
The companies have not yet released specific information on their new rates.