Update 06/19/2008: China Unicom denies the rumor of an impending iPhone deal.
EXCERPT: Jun. 19, 2008 (via China Knowledge) – China United Telecommunications Corp. (China Unicom) a state-owned mobile operator in the country, denied earlier reports that it will sell Apple Inc’s new 3G version iPhone in mainland China in August.
“We do not hear about any Apple’s 3G iPhone sales deal between China Unicom and Apple. There is no concrete contact between both sides at present,” said a spokesman from China Unicom when asked about its cooperation program with Apple Inc.
An insider of China Unicom said it is impossible for the company to launch iPhone sales plan in August as the restructuring of China’s telecom sector will not be completed by then and issues like the operation structure of the telecom operators and 3G licenses still remain unclear, according to the source.
See article > HERE
Rumor: China Unicom to bring iPhone in August
iPhonAsia wants to emphasize that none of the many reports are quoting official sources. Thus far it’s pure rumor and guesswork on the part of a few blogs and news services. Yet there is some logic to this conjecture and an Apple/Unicom deal works on several levels.
1) China Unicom will likely obtain W-CDMA 3G (supported by iPhone 3G)
2) As the underdog, China Unicom will be aggressive in pursuit of China Mobile’s subscriber-base.
Among China’s newly reorganized carriers, China Unicom is the most likely to obtain a W-CDMA license and this 3G protocol will almost certainly be supported by iPhone 3G. China Mobile will be licensed to run TD-SCDMA and iPhone 3G will not support China’s “TD” 3G standard. While iPhone 3G will be backward compatible to China Mobile GRPS/EDGE 2.5 G network, this will not allow iPhone to run at full speed.
China Unicom would love have an iPhone deal that can help jump start new business. China Unicom would also likely make a pitch (special deals) to the owners of the 400,000+ gen-one iPhones now running in China … most on China Mobile’s network. Part of the pitch is to go “on contract” with China Unicom and have official access to Apple’s App Store (China’s truncated version) along with iPhone upgrades … no need to jail-break.
China Unicom/Netcom will continue to run their GSM900 network and high speed will come when they are licensed to run W-CDMA 3G and build out a W-CDMA network (anywhere from 18 months to 3 years to complete).
The new iPhone 3G will work on both China Mobile and China Unicom’s non-3G networks albeit China Unicom users may not be able to take full advantage of mobile TV until W-CDMA is ready. For the time being Mobile TV will only be available via the TD-SCDMA enabled handsets (albeit current “TD” handsets are buggy with poor reception around tall buildings and offer short 1-hour battery life) running on China Mobile’s “TD” network in the Olympic cities only.
Full 3G-licensure for all China carriers could come soon after the Beijing Summer Olympics. The delay in 3G licensure is China’s way of buying time for their “indigenous” TD-SCDMA 3G to overcome technical issues. The key question is how long China will delay the issuance of all 3G licenses. A delay well into 2009 would be a set-back for all of China IMHO.
As a sidebar … China Mobile may try to win a W-CDMA 3G license as well as TD-SCDMA. I’d say the odds are about 50/50 that they will obtain both licenses. Although I know there are many who feel “TD” may be the only license issued to China Mobile … and they may be right.
Second sidebar … Is becoming increasingly clear that China Mobile is intent to move quickly on development of 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE). This is about 2 or 3 years away.
See more on China Unicom/Apple rumors – in links below
Much more on topic > Understanding China’s Telecom Industry