Korean Carrier goes over Samsung’s head, releases Galaxy S5 early

By Alexandra Burlacu | Mar 27, 2014 09:27 AM EDT

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The Samsung Galaxy S5 has made a surprise launch in the company's home country of South Korea, hitting retail two weeks earlier than scheduled.

Samsung took the wraps off its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5, back at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2014. The handset is set to hit commercial availability worldwide on April 11, launching in 150 countries by the end of next month.

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South Korean carrier SK Telecom, however, couldn't wait any longer and has already released the Samsung Galaxy S5 in the country, to everyone's surprise - including Samsung.

After rumors started to emerge that the Samsung Galaxy S5 would go on sale early in Korea, company chief JK Shin denied such claims and said this is not the case. As it turns out, the early launch took Samsung by surprise as well.

The reasoning behind this bold move is that Korean networks were punished by the government for illegally subsidizing new customers and are not allowed to sign up any new customers in parts of April and May. Needless to mention, this ban would have had a tremendous impact if the carriers had to sit out and watch the Galaxy S5 official launch come and go, without being able to do anything about it. Consequently, Korean networks were eager to get the latest Samsung Galaxy S5 into the hands of smartphone shoppers early, before the punishment goes into effect.

More specifically, Korean carrier SK Telecom went over Samsung's head and released the Galaxy S5 early.

"We just wanted to provide the device to local users as soon as possible. It is for the good of our subscribers," an SK Telecom official told the Korea Herald.

Samsung is the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturer, and going against its plans in its own home country is an incredibly bold move for a mobile carrier. This newly-set precedent could cause some real chaos on the mobile market if other mobile operators choose to follow suit and ignore the manufacturer's release date and launch devices when they feel like it.

"[We have] provided mobile carriers with a limited number of units for marketing and pre-sales activities, but the decision to release the device early in the Korean market was made by the mobile carrier itself, independently of Samsung," the Galaxy maker told CNET. "We express our regret at this decision and we are working to verify all the facts."

On the other hand, if the Galaxy S5 release didn't come early for the Korean market, Samsung would have missed out on some great sales on its home turf. The ban would have severely affected sales, and Korea is a huge market for Samsung. Moreover, rival HTC has just unveiled its new HTC One M8 flagship and made it immediately available for purchase, whereas the Galaxy S5 is still waiting to hit retail even though it became official back in February.



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