Update 5/29/08: iPhonAsia has reviewed numerous current reports which indicate that the newly formed China Uniom/Netcom will receive W-CDMA 3G when telecom restructuring dust has settled (in 3 to 18 mos). If this proves true, China Unicom may become an alternative to China Mobile as a partner for Apple (iPhone) in China. It may also be possible for Apple to work with both carriers. Note also the just announced 5/29/08 iPhone deal in Hong Kong and Macau with Hutchison Telecom Intl. Ltd. Hutchison runs a W-CDMA network in Macau.
Two mobile service providers, Vodafone and Telecom Italia, announced yesterday that they had struck separate deals with Apple Inc. to sell the iPhone in Italy. iPhonAsia is speculating that Vodafone and Optus will share the Australian, New Zealand market. Might this be a trend?
Could we see a similar arrangement with Apple and China’s two key players in wireless – China Mobile and China Unicom (most likely to obtain a W-CDMA 3G license)? Highly speculative? Absolutely! Possible? You bet. Apple is moving to new business models for iPhone, and there appears to be room for more than one major carrier in each market. There are also new sources of revenue for Apple with the iPhone SDK and App Store.
Consensus on Cooperation Reached with Apple
One recent item that passed below radar level was China Mobile Wang Jianzhou’s comment at the Boao Forum (April) -China Mobile reached “consensus on some manner of cooperation” with Apple. This “cooperation” could be nothing or it could be something substantial, such as how users will access iTunes and the App Store. China Mobile has their own data services platform (Monternet) and Music download service called M.Music. How China Mobile will play with iTunes is a key aspect of “cooperation.” The App Store will also be an important area for cooperation. China (Nation/State) Ministries tend to place limits on what can be downloaded. Hence the need to reach some understanding on how China Mobile customers can use iTunes and the App Store.
Apple may have an ally in this “cooperation” with China Mobile. Google (GOOG) has optimized their platform for iPhone and Google is working with China Mobile by offering its search engine on China Mobile’s Monternet WAP mobile Internet.