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Korean colour-ring craze

Phone tones set to get more personal

If you thought that listening to a tinny rendition of Robbie Williams' Millennium emanating from a nearby mobile phone was irritating, then you will hate the latest development from Korean company SK Telecom.

The telco has come up with a way for mobile owners to choose the sound their callers hear while waiting for their call to be answered. "When you call someone, the ringing you hear in your phone is a boring electronic tone so we decided we wanted to give it some colour," said Jae Sub Na, assistant manager of SK Telecom's global business team.

The result was 'colour-ring', a service that allows users to select the tone that callers to their phones hear. Instead of the classic 'brrrrr, brrrrr' ringing tone, callers can now listen to 'hold music' in the form of the latest Korean pop hit, a Chinese melody, or even sounds from nature such as the wind or a running river.

This service has proved a real hit with subscribers, and so far it has attracted five million users within eight month — one third of the carriers' total subscribers. And with charges at around 50p per month, the colour-ring service is earning SK Telecom around £2.6m each month, and that's before it tots up the revenue from new ring tones, which cost between 700 and 1,200 won (40 to 60p).

With profits like this to be made, other carriers are starting to sit up and take notice "We are talking to several carriers in Japan, Singapore and China about the service and trying to contact US and UK carriers," said Jae.

The service is easy to roll out to all subscribers because it requires changes in the carrier's network but not in user's handsets.


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