(LEAD) SK Telecom launches first Galaxy S5, Samsung puzzled
(ATTN: CHANGES photo, lede; ADDS KT, LG Uplus' move in paras 7-8)
By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top mobile carrier SK Telecom, the only mobile carrier currently operating in the country, started selling Samsung Electronics Co.'s latest Galaxy lineup at home Thursday, without receiving prior consent from the tech giant, also inducing other players to advance their launch dates.
SK Telecom said the Galaxy S5, first shown at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain last month, is now available for purchase, with the price slated at 866,800 won (US$806.1) but can be discounted to as low as 660,000 won for long-term subscribers.
Industry watchers said the earlier-than-expected launch, just over two weeks before the original schedule of April 11, came amid concerns that SK's earnings will remain sluggish as local telecom authorities have slapped carriers here with business suspensions.
"We are extremely puzzled about SK Telecom's launch of the Galaxy S5," a communications official from Samsung's mobile division said. "Although SK Telecom had asked for permission to start the sales of the model this month, we have consistently neglected the request."
South Korea's top mobile carrier SK Telecom, the only mobile carrier currently operating in the country, started selling Samsung Electronics Co.'s latest Galaxy lineup at home on March 27, 2014, without receiving prior consent from the tech giant. Other players also immediately joined the move. (Yonhap)
"This is not the time to ask about the legal matters of SK Telecom's unexpected move, but Samsung is now under talks with the mobile carrier to find out the background of the launch," the official added.
SK Telecom, in contrast, said its latest move came after the company put itself in its clients' shoes.
"We just wanted to provide the device to local users as soon as possible. It is for the good of our subscribers," an official from SK Telecom said, neglecting to comment further on the issue. Immediately following the announcement by SK Telecom, which dominates around half of the local market, KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. also respectively claimed they would join the move.
Although the two companies are banned from collecting new customers due to orders by local telecom authorities, it is still possible for the players to sell the Galaxy S5 to existing users, whose previous devices are lost, broken or older than two years.
The 5.1-inch Galaxy S5, slightly wider than its predecessor, the Galaxy S4, is equipped with a 16-megapixel camera and fingerprint screening, which is also anticipated to be applied in mobile transactions.
One of the most significant features of the device is the heart-beat sensor installed on the rear, which can be connected to smartwatches to effectively manage workouts. Samsung also beefed up its durability by making it dust- and water-resistant.
SK said the device will first come in two colors, black and white, but will gradually expand to blue and gold as well.
The mobile carrier added its version of the Galaxy S5 will also be equipped with "T-phone," a smartphone platform that allows users to find phone numbers easily on its database of 1 million listings, making it faster than searching through the Internet.
The system will also show details of unidentified incoming calls, such as callers' corporate or personal names, as well as the purpose of the calls. The display, for example, will show "insurance advertisement," the carrier earlier said.
The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning imposed 45-day business suspensions on the country's mobile carriers, respectively, for providing illegal subsidies to new users changing their service providers, which sparked overheated competition in the market.
SK Telecom, the top player, will be suspended from April 5 to May 19, and KT is banned from attracting new customers from March 13 to April 26. LG Uplus was ordered to close its doors from March 13 to April 4 and from April 27 to May 18.
The Korea Communications Commission also said in a separate move that it will suspend the businesses of SK Telecom and LG Uplus for seven and 14 days, respectively, after the end of the ICT ministry's disciplinary move.
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