Apple has two very recent Beijing Job postings that suggest iPhone may soon be “official” in China. The most recent posting (November 13, 2008) is for an iPhone Quality Assurance Engineer in Beijing. Apple has launched iPhone in China’s special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau), but not yet in greater China. The recent Beijing postings suggest that this is about to change.
NOTE: Apple job posting pulled from this post voluntarily by iPhonAsia
What more do we know about the pending iPhone in China launch? Not much! Kudos to Apple for keeping the lid on.
But guesswork is fun and so here goes. NOTE: The following should be filed under super wild ass guess (SWAG)…
iPhonAsia believes that it is possible that Apple already has contracted deals for two (2) new iPhones with two different China carriers (see below).
1) iPhone for China Mobile: A customized TD iPhone 3G for China Mobile with a chipset to support the “China built” TD-SCDMA 3G and GSM (EDGE 2.5 G) … There is an outside chance that the TD iPhone 3G chipset will also support CMMB protocol – China’s self-developed mobile TV standard. This special model for China will be a major compromise for Apple as standard features may be limited (e.g. no WiFi no iTunes no App Store) with added support for China Mobile’s value added services (Monternet) platform. This type of crippling customization is an almost unthinkable divergence in strategy for Apple and I can already hear the “no ways!” … However, China (nation) may have pushed hard for just such a compromise as a way to promote their nascent TD-SCDMA network. TD-SCDMA is important to China. Think of this compromise as Apple’s entrance fee into China’s highly controlled handset market. The good news is that a large share of Apple’s risks/costs in developing this customized TD iPhone 3G will be born by China Mobile’s parent CMCC (i.e. China). How? Apple won’t manufacture a customized model unless there is a large pre-sale to China Mobile for inventory. If the model is a hit, Apple can quickly ramp up production beyond the pre-sale quantity. If TD-SCDMA is a dud, no problem, the current run is already paid for.
2) iPhone for China Unicom: A full featured (non-customized, non-crippled) iPhone 3G for China Unicom. China Unicom will be granted a W-CDMA 3G license. The current iPhone 3G already supports the world standard W-CDMA 3G protocol. Hence, there may be no need for a special production run to deliver this model. China’s Ministry of Information Industry Technology (MIIT) will very probably delay China Unicom’s W-CDMA 3G license issuance for a few months after issuance of China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA 3G license (yep, blatant favoritism for the “China built” TD-SCDMA). The launch of the iPhone for China Unicom will likely come mid/late 2009.
More below on development of China 3G networks.
iPhonAsia comment: If the update below is accurate (we remain a bit skeptical), W-CDMA trials begin in Shanghai in early 2009 and a full cross-China network will be built out soon thereafter.
We won’t hold our breath as China ministries are the gatekeeper and ready or not, W-CDMA won’t go live until the MIIT issues the pre-requisite 3G license. The ministries have thus far been doing everything they can to give their home-grown TD-SCDMA 3G the upper hand in China. Many have predicted that licenses for W-CDMA and CDMA2000 will be conveniently delayed until TD-SCDMA finds its legs.
iPhonAsia has also observed a recent battle brewing between key ministry officials and China Mobile executives who have been saddled with the responsibility for TD-SCDMA. One month it appears that the ministries are calling all of the shots and the next month it appears that China Mobile has regained their hand. Who is controlling the agenda today? In reading the tea leaves (articles, articles and more articles), it looks like China Mobile is reasserting their influence. Front and center on China Mobile’s agenda is TD-LTE 4G not TD-SCDMA. Supporting this thesis are two recent clues:
Clue 1: Deleted by editor per source request (apologies to readers)
Clue 2: Before the Beijing Summer Olympics, the MIIT had chastised China Mobile for not focusing enough on TD-SCDMA. The Olympic flame has now been doused and so too has the “you’re not doing enough” admonishments from the ministries. Now that the “TD-SCDMA heat” has dissipated, China Mobile is in fact moving ahead with haste to develop TD-LTE.
The China Telecom Industry Restructuring Plan appears to be changing a bit. There may be one or two backroom compromises and deals in the works over TD-SCDMA and the future of wireless. We may never know if or how plans have changed. Yet one fact remains clear – TD-SCDMA’s long term viability remains a question mark. The more I read about China Mobile’s fast-track plans for TD-LTE 4G, the more I doubt that China’s ministries can delay issuance of the 3G licenses to all three of China’s carriers. If TD-SCDMA is not going to be accepted by consumers, then why not issue all three 3G licenses now, allow China Mobile to rapidly develop their 4G TD-LTE, and let true competition sort out the winners and losers?
If you haven’t seen the grand plan, here is the thumbnail roadmap for 3G licensure in China:
China Mobile – TD-SCDMA (TD-LTE 4G in 2010)
China Unicom – W-CDMA
China Telecom – CDMA2000
Update: 11/07/08 Update: China Unicom Trials WCDMA In Seven Cities
China Unicom has started testing its WCDMA trial network in 700 locations across seven cities including Shanghai and Shenzhen, reports ChinaByte quoting an unnamed insider. Previous reports said China Unicom had completed WCDMA network construction and testing in more than 60 Shanghai locations and expected to disseminate the network within 2-3 months.
A spokesperson for China Unicom’s 3G services promotion project said that China Unicom has made preparations to build a WCDMA network within 2-3 months after the issuance of 3G licenses. The company’s construction of a WCDMA network would not require changes to the core network, and antennas could be shared between new and existing equipment; the only change necessary would be a smooth upgrade of wireless base stations. China Unicom began soliciting bids for WCDMA network equipment last week, and expects to have results within a month.
A source at China Unicom said that networks in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou would immediately implement the highest level of WCDMA currently in existence – HSDPA and HSUPA 3.5G modes, with internet download speeds of 14.4 Mbps and upload speeds of 5.76 Mbps. Current TD-SCDMA and CDMA2000 networks have download speeds of less than 4Mbps.
China Unicom figures show that 11% of Shanghai mobile users use imported mobile phones; of these, 95% are WCDMA handsets. These users will be able to take advantage of China Unicom’s WCDMA services with only a change to a China Unicom SIM card.
At the same time, a spokesperson for Shanghai Mobile revealed that as of late October, more than 20,000 TD-SCDMA data cards had been sold in Shanghai, of which more than 3,000 were TD-HSDPA cards.
More > HERE