TD iPhone 3G in the works? Perhaps
iPhonAsia Comment: Given recent telecom developments in China (govt. strongly favoring TD-SCDMA, and delaying W-CDMA), the probability is now good (even money odds) that Apple and China Mobile are collaborating to release a TD iPhone 3G in PRC. This TD iPhone 3G would necessitate a special production run with a chipset to support TD-SCDMA and likely CMMB (China’s mobile TV standard).
There are many arguments for and against Apple developing TD iPhone 3G. The most compelling “no go” argument is the current lack of public acceptance of TD-SCDMA in China. Despite centralized control of the telecom industry, Chinese consumers still vote with their RMB. If they ignore TD handsets altogether, then China and China Mobile have a problem. Yet generous TD handset subsidies plus a TD iPhone 3G (also subsidized) would go a long way towards China’s attainment of their 100 million subscriber benchmark for TD-SCDMA.
NOTE: Apple would be unlikely to take the risks associated with special build of TD iPhone 3G without minimum pre-sale guarantees … this could simply be in the form of a substantial pre-sale to China Mobile – possibly in the seven figures in terms of units.
Timing for a TD iPhone 3G? No sooner than Sept/Oct 2008 … More likely early 2009
The earliest possible distribution of an TD iPhone 3G would be late September or early October 2008. This timeline presumes a deal between Apple and China Mobile was agreed to in principle in Spring (circa April) and contracted soon thereafter.
A new model iPhone cannot simply be slapped together. This is a six to eighteen month process. With all of Apple’s iPhone engineering – design/dev and test teams – on a fasktrack schedule and with full cooperation of China Mobile engineers, a TD iPhone 3G might be ready six months from “go” (signed contract) date. Hence, if a deal was reached in early April, we are looking at the end of September or early October for release … at the earliest.
Based on ample public and non-public information, iPhonAsia believes that no deal with China Mobile was in place before March 2008. We are also confident that a deal with China Mobile has now been concluded – most likely in the weeks just before WWDC in mid June 2008. If a deal was not done until June and/or a more normal product development path is in progress, a more realistic timeframe for appearance of a TD iPhone 3G would be the year end 2008 or early 2009. An official “iPhone in China” announcement could of course come sooner, yet not likely more than a month or two ahead of any TD iPhone 3G formal launch as China MII would not want to shutdown current TD handset sales (largely China built OEMs).
Steve Jobs June 9, 2008 (post WWDC 2008 interview with CNBC’s Jim Goldman):
“The two big ones we just didn’t have a chance to get closed were Russia and China… and I think you’ll see those happen later this year… we have to get through the regulatory bodies in China, which we’re in the process of doing, and I think later on this year you’ll hear some announcements. Seventy (70) countries is a lot of countries and we’re launching 22 of the biggest on July 11th”
Given the overwhelming response to the next gen iPhone 3G, Apple and Foxconn, are devoting all of their resources to meeting the demand (Foxconn Building 800,000 iPhones A Week) for the current launch and forthcoming August 22nd launch. This focus will likely take precedence over any special build of a TD iPhone 3G. iPhonAsia is therefore setting our sights on an “end of year” 2008 or early 2009 for a TD iPhone 3G launch in the People’s Republic of China.
SIDEBAR: South Korea Telecom has also been working closely with China Mobile on TD-SCDMA. Apple has yet to make any announcements in the South Korea market which is largely walled off due to imposition of a WiPi protocol (Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability), unique to SK. While iPhonAsia has no sources or insights to Apple negotiations in South Korea, it might make sense to address both the South Korea and China markets via a special production run of iPhone 3G.
Via ZD Net.co.uk………..
EXCERPTS: A government official said last month that China will issue 3G licences in six months, although this is not confirmed, in which case “TD-SCDMA has a healthy head start to get a customer base locked in before the competition comes”, Natkin said.
…. China Mobile will also probably have to provide heavy subsidies for handsets “for at least another two years” to entice buyers.