DoCoMo, KTF to Issue Local Numbers to Roaming Users

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Japan's NTT DoCoMo and South Korea's KT Freetel will launch a service next month that issues local telephone numbers to roaming customers from either country that can be used simultaneously with their home-country numbers.

The service will allow cell phone users to avoid roaming charges altogether and make and receive calls at rates much closer to those of domestic users. It will also mean friends and acquaintances in foreign countries calling a visiting user won't have to pay international phone charges.

For example, NTT DoCoMo customers currently pay ¥50 per minute to make calls within South Korea but will only pay ¥20 when using the new service. The cost of calls back to Japan will be cut from ¥125 to ¥60 and to other countries from ¥265 to ¥150. Receiving calls while in South Korea will be free under the service versus the ¥70 per minute currently charged when roaming.

To get started users will have to apply for the service. NTT DoCoMo will charge ¥300 per month for the number, which won't change as long as the customer keeps paying the fee, plus a one-off start-up charge of ¥1,050.

Roaming charges are a constant source of complaint for cell phone users and many regular travellers buy prepaid SIM cards when travelling to foreign countries to take advantage of cheaper local rates, however there are hassles. Users don't know the local number until they arrive and buy the card and have to keep recharging it or using it to avoid the account going dormant and the number being switched off.

Under the new service the local numbers will continue to function when the users return home but then receiving incoming calls will be charged at roaming rates. There will be an option to switch off reception of calls on the foreign numbers when back home.

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