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Korean telcos use Galaxy S10 pre-orders to compete for initial 5G subscribers

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

South Korean telcos are going all out to lure their first 5G subscribers, kicking it off with the sale of the Galaxy S10 5G on Friday.

The launch of the smartphone will signal the official beginning of 5G commercialisation in South Korea, the world’s first roll out of 5G networks.

SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus have started pre-orders for Samsung’s 5G offering on Monday with their own respective batches of free gifts.

SK Telecom will give out the Galaxy S10 5G for free to five pre-ordering customers, while also giving a wireless vacuum cleaner to 55 people and free wireless chargers to 555 people.

Those who pre-ordered through the mobile carrier’s online shopping mall, T World Direct, will either get a free wireless charging pad, a secondary battery, or a car rest.

KT is also offering its own set of gifts. It will be giving out a free Samsung TV or Dyson hair set to two people, among pre-ordering customers, every day from April 1-15. It will also be giving E-Mart mobile gift cards to a hundred customers and free chicken certificates to 5,000 people.

It will also invite 50 customers who may each bring a companion with them, of those that applied, to attend an exclusive launch event at On Restaurant. Customers of KT’s On Restaurant will be able to eat anything for free with a charge of 1.98 won for each additional serving after the first one. 

LG Uplus meanwhile will give a free VR headset to every customer that purchases a Galaxy S10 5G by May. Those who buy the smartphone by June through the carrier will get YouTube Premium for free for six months.

Last year, all three telcos agreed to launch 5G services at the same time to avoid unnecessary competition. It was seen as a move to prevent a repeat of the costly marketing campaigns that plagued the 4G LTE launch in 2011.

But competition will remain fierce as it will be a chance for telcos to gain new market share and possibly change the power dynamics among them. For 20 years, SK Telecom has been the largest mobile carrier, with KT coming second, and LG Uplus being a distant third.

Promotion events are also likely to ignite again with the launch of V50 ThinQ 5G on April 19.

LG Uplus gained significant clout during the LTE era and is planning to extend further in 5G by being the first to introduce overseas services. LG Uplus introduced Netflix and is also the only carrier to use equipment by Huawei, despite the global security controversy surrounding the Chinese company.

South Korea initially planned to roll out 5G in March but it was delayed due to industry players not being ready. The government finally accepted data plans from the carriers that include a low-entry 55,000 won per month late last month.

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