China Unicom’s “WO” 3G
Apple’s presumed iPhone carrier partner in China, China Unicom, unveiled its new 3G brand on Tuesday, April 28, 2009. China Unicom’s WCDMA 3G network and services will be marketed under the “WO” brand. The initial WCDMA network trial launch is scheduled on May 17 in 55 major cities across China. The full 3G network rollout is scheduled to be completed by year-end with 283 cities up and running under WCDMA coverage.
China Unicom’s unveiling of WO > WATCH VIDEO
Five Star Appliance (Best Buy China)
As iPhonAsia reported on April 13, Apple has also reached an agreement with Best Buy owned Five Star Appliance to distribute Apple products throughout China. Apple will set up “stores-within-a-store” ala the Apple mini stores in US Best Buys. iPhone will presumably sell in the Five Star Appliance stores after it is officially launched. Read details on Apple and Five Star Appliance > HERE
There were rumors earlier this year that Foxconn Group’s (Hon Hai Precision is a Foxconn subsidiary) Cybermart would distribute Apple products in China. The Cybermart deal has been “officially denied” by Apple and Foxconn. Stay tuned, as it’s possible that we may hear about additional Apple distribution partnerships in China.
May 17 Announcements – Mid Summer Luanch
iPhonAsia believes the China Unicom iPhone deal announcement could be made on May 17 (World Telecom Day) or on June 9 (Apple’s WWDC Keynote). The formal iPhone launch will most likely happen sometime in mid to late summer, but not before July 1.
iPhonAsia believes that the iPhone for China will be a special production run and may come preloaded with several “for China” apps such as mobile search through Baidu.com and an app to support either Tudou or Youku (China YouTube alternatives). We may hear more about these special partnerships with Apple on May 17 or June 9. Read more > HERE
MIIT Approval of iPhone and WAPI or WiFi
It should be noted that Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) approval of iPhone is a necessary precondition to an official iPhone launch. Last month, MIIT Vice-minister Lou Qinjian confirmed that China Unicom was “engaged in clandestine iPhone in China negotiations with Apple.” He would not disclose any details regarding the negotiations, however he did reveal that:
“The labor letter department is organizing the operator to relate the terminal [mobile handset] manufacturer positively, after the 3G service launches comprehensively [circa May/June ‘09], provides the critical mass to the society 3G terminal product.”
The MIIT also recently authorized 3G mobile handsets to include WAPI, China’s homegrown version of WiFi. iPhonAsia is still holding out hope for approval of international WiFi standards (802.11) on 3G mobile phones in China. More on WAPI vs. WiFi > HERE