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Ahead of this week’s Samsung Galaxy S10 5G launch, the South Korean government has taken sides in the debate over whether 5G data services will be both unlimited and affordable: no on the former, but yes on the latter. Following last-minute negotiations with carriers last month, regulators have approved a series of 5G data plans that range from roughly $50 to $110 per month but unfortunately start with meager data allowances.
The South Korean government actively coordinated a national 5G network build-out and has maintained final approval rights over carriers’ plans. Just ahead of the country’s actual commercial 5G launch, officials rejected top carrier SK Telecom’s original pricing plan, saying that it was expensive, solely for users of “massive data,” and would “restrict the consumer’s right for choices.”
According to local news agency Yonhap, SK Telecom instead received approval to offer the following plans:
- 8GB of data for 55,000 won ($49)
- 150GB of data for 75,000 won ($66)
- 200GB of data for 95,000 won ($84)
- 300GB of data for 125,000 won ($110)
In the lead-up to its 5G launch, SK Telecom has said that its network will support peak speeds of up to 2.7Gbps using the Galaxy S10 5G, when simultaneously downloading data from its 4G and 5G networks. At that peak speed, a user could deplete the basic plan’s entire monthly 8GB data allotment in less than 25 seconds, and the most deluxe plan’s 300GB in under 15 minutes.
Third-place carrier LG Uplus is offering slightly more aggressive pricing and promotions to win over customers. Its three plans are:
- 9GB of data for 55,000 won ($49)
- 150GB of data for 75,000 won ($66)
- 250GB of data for 95,000 won ($84)
LG Uplus has some incentives for early customers, including free virtual reality headsets and services for the more affordable plans. There’s also a special limited-time incentive for anyone who signs up for the 250GB data plan by June 30: 1TB of monthly data through the end of 2019.
Second-place carrier KT hasn’t yet announced its 5G data plan pricing but says it will offer mobile coupons, appliances, and even fried chicken to win early preorders. It’s expected to announce pricing for its data plans tomorrow and to focus on 1Gbps real world mobile speeds with low latency.
Thus far, none of the Korean carriers has embraced unlimited 5G data service — a feature that some 5G chip and device makers have said will be necessary to facilitate the use of the high-speed wireless technology. In the United States, Verizon has committed to unlimited 5G data on both its home and mobile networks, while AT&T launched limited mobile 5G services late last year.
Sales of the Galaxy S10 5G will kick off on April 5 with a $1,200 base price, including free Galaxy Buds wireless earphones and other incentives. Rival LG said this weekend that it will sell its V50 ThinQ 5G in South Korea starting April 19, with a lower $1,050 price tag and half the storage capacity. LG will include a free second screen for customers through May.
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