In a strange turn of events, the Galaxy S5 went on sale today in South Korea, despite Samsung’s explicit demand that carriers wait for the official release.
Samsung has staged a worldwide rollout for its new flagship, which is set to ship in 150 countries on April 11. But South Korea’s telecom watchdog threw a wrench in Samsung’s plans when it punished the country’s top carriers with a 45-day sales ban.
SK Telecom, LG U Plus, and Korea Telecom were accused by the Korean Communication Commission (the local equivalent of the FCC) of offering illegal subsidies in order to attract customers. Phone subsidies that are larger than 270,000 won (about $250) are illegal in South Korea. The KCC slapped the three carriers with fines and a 45 days interdiction to sell phones, except for devices sold to customers replacing an old or broken phone.
For SK Telecom, the sales interdiction means they would miss the April 11 launch date for the Galaxy S5, so the carrier decided to release the popular new device ahead of schedule.
The move apparently displeased Samsung. The giant declared itself “very puzzled” with the decision of SK Telecom, which is South Korea’s largest carrier. “Samsung hasn’t agreed with SK Telecom for an early release of our S5 to only SK Telecom customers,” said CEO JK Shin.