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China Telecom Bundles Free Internet 3G Subscription Plans

The South China Morning Post is reporting that China Telecom Corp Ltd, through its Beijing subsidiary (Beijing Telecom), will offer free mobile Internet usage to mobile subscribers who sign up before Jul. 30th. China Telecom will also reduce local call fees (now between RMB 0.11 and RMB 0.19), down 72% for subscribers to new monthly packages – between RMB 49 and RMB 189.

China Telecom’s “free” mobile Internet and reduced call rates are clearly designed to boost 3G services consumption and gain more market share. China Telecom’s 3G network has a coverage rate of more than 98% in urban areas in Beijing.

According to a source quoted in the SCMP, China Telecom’s CDMA2000 3G network rollout will proceed rapidly in Beijing and Guangdong. China Telecom is aiming to introduce its upgraded 3G service in Beijing and Guangdong as early as this month.

Now the 64 million yuan question … Will Apple develop a CDMA2000 3G (EV-DO) iPhone for China Telecom and go after the relatively affluent urban Netizens that China Telecom is targeting through their new bundled data/call plans in Beijing and new eSurfing plans in Shanghai? 

 

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iPhonAsia comment: Cindy Geng of Interfax has provided timely reports on the iPhone in China negotiations. See iPhonAsia reply to post below

cindygeng_s1by Cindy Geng

Beijing. March 6. INTERFAX-CHINA –

EXCERPT: The chairman of China Unicom has confirmed that the operator is holding talks with Apple over officially introducing the iPhone to China, while rival operator China Mobile has also claimed its iPhone negotiations with Apple are still underway. Chang Xiaobing, chairman of China Unicom, said on March 4 that the result of China Unicom’s talks with Apple will be announced on May 17, although he refused to reveal any details of what kind of deal the talks entail.

However, Wang Jianzhou, president of China Mobile, said on March 5 that his company is still in talks with Apple over releasing the iPhone. “We hope the iPhone can be used in China Mobile’s network, and Apple has demonstrated its will,” Wang said. Read full post > HERE

Comments (Total 1 comments)

picture-15Mon 09 Mar 2009 05:35

Great reporting Cindy! Thanks.

According to my tea leaf readings (i.e. total guesswork), Apple may have two China carrier deals to announce in the coming weeks or months…

1) The well publicized deal with China Unicom 

2) Another with “Cinderella” otherwise known as China Telecom (Yes, a CDMA2000 EV-DO iPhone). Many have dismissed the possibility of an Apple and China Telecom alliance. I do not. China Telecom, has a mere 28 million wireless subscribers (primarily in Southern provinces). This is a small number when compared to China Mobile (463 million) and China Unicom (134 million). So what might entice Apple to do a deal with China Telecom? How about 40 million relatively affluent broadband subscribers, 210 million landline subscribers, and a brand new WiFi for mobile service – eSurfing! The new eSurfing service plan is available to PCs, Macs and mobile phones. China Telecom has also kicked off an array of eSurfing promotions under which subscribers to the wireless broadband monthly plans and the voice service (under eSurfing) are entitled to 300-minutes of talk time each month at no charge. Combining CDMA2000 3G and WiFi is part of China Telecom’s core strategy.

What about Apple’s ongoing “cooperation talks” with China Mobile? A deal with China Mobile could still could happen, but TD-SCDMA network issues remain problematic. I believe that Apple has gone to great lengths, including dedicating engineering resources to TD-SCDMA and possibly some design/build efforts. However, China Mobile may have too clearly telegraphed their “rapidly as possible” move to TD LTE 4G … which gives any spend on TD-SCDMA handsets a limited life span (2 years or so). There is also the issue of network reliability. TD-SCDMA is a nascent network with usability challenges (to put it politely) and Apple wants to start off any official launch in China with a very positive enduser experience. Apple knows that network issues can undeservedly tarnish the reputation of the mobile handset. In fact, China Mobile has blamed many of the early problems with TD-SCDMA on handsets.

Bottom line… unless China Mobile were to commit to a substantial pre-purchase for inventory of a special TD-SCDMA iPhone (TD iPhone 3G), then Apple would be reluctant to move forward with TD-SCDMA. I believe the TD-SCDMA issue is at least as pertinent as any debate over who controls value added services and the App Store.

Another long shot possibility is that Apple could launch an EDGE 2.5 iPhone Nano with China Mobile that would not carry any TD-SCDMA concerns. There are many interesting possibilities. 

~ Dan Butterfield, iPhonAsia

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March 7, 2009: According to iPhonAsia’s tea leaf readings (i.e. guesswork), Apple may have two China carrier deals to announce in the coming weeks or months… 

  1. cinderellathe well publicized deal with China Unicom (who will be in Cupertino tomorrow – March 8)
  2. another with Cinderella otherwise known as China Telecom

What about Apple’s ongoing “cooperation talks” with China Mobile?  A deal with China Mobile could still could happen, but TD-SCDMA network issues remain problematic. There is also a power struggle over who controls the value added services platform and App Store. Yet the closer Apple gets to deals with China Unicom and China Telecom, the bigger the case of flop sweats for China Mobile.

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Update – March 23, 2009: Based on recent progress in Apple and China Unicom negotiations, it appears more likely that Apple will grant a 3G exclusive to China Unicom. Much more > HERE

China Telecom has also now engaged with Microsoft on a search deal and is rumored to be in discussions with Research in Motion on a Blackberry deal, although both China Telecom and RIM have denied that a deal has been concluded. 

iPhonAsia comment: Will China Telecom play Cinderella and be invited to the iPhone Ball? The two step sisters – China Mobile and China Unicom have been getting all of the attention in the “iPhone cinderellain China” drama. After all, these two carriers have the right wireless pedigree and they have subscribers… lots of subscribers! China Mobile has 458 million and China Unicom has 135 million. And poor Cinderella, China Telecom, has a mere 28 million wireless subscribers (primarily in Southern provinces). So what could China Telecom offer the princely Apple? How about 40 million relatively affluent broadband subscribers, 210 million landline subscribers, and a brand new WiFi for mobile service – eSurfing! The new eSurfing service plan is available to PCs, Macs and mobile phones. China Telecom has also kicked off an array of eSurfing promotions under which subscribers to the wireless broadband monthly plans and the voice service (under eSurfing) are entitled to 300-minutes of talk time each month at no charge. Combining CDMA2000 3G and WiFi is part of China Telecom’s core strategy. 

china-telecom4Should Apple choose to slip the glass slipper on China Telecom’s dainty foot, strong WiFi capability may be one of the key decision points. By the end of 2009 China Telecom will establish 25,000 eSurfing Wi-Fi hot spots nationwide and about 3,000 of these spots are going to be in Shanghai, an iPhone hotbed.  

xin_260503241009490215842But no romance is without its challenges. If the relationship is to be, Apple will have some technical issues to resolve, including 3G compatibility and meeting China’s WAPI WiFi standards (China’s WAPI = Wide Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure, or GB15629.11-2003 national standard differs from international WiFi standards). 

China Telecom CEO Wang Xiaochu

China Telecom CEO Wang Xiaochu

China Telecom is the proud owner of a new CDMA2000 3G license. The current model iPhone supports W-CDMA 3G (a world standard 3G network currently being built out by China Unicom) but does not support China Mobile’s “indigenously innovated” TD-SCDMA 3G nor China Telecom’s CDMA2000 3G.  

Would Apple consider building a CDMA2000 (EV-DO) ready iPhone?  The crystal ball says; “prospects look favorable.” Apple has been scouting out EV-DO and CDMA Engineers for months in their online iPhone job postings. And oh, by the way … a CDMA2000 (EV-DO) ready iPhone model for China Telecom would likely run on Verizon’s network in the U.S. Hmmm? Another post for another day.

cinderella-mini-glass-slipper-replicaapple_unicomTake heart China Mobile and China Unicom … The dance floor is spacious and it wouldn’t be a Ball with only one princess on the dance card … In fact, rumor has it that China Unicom is now (or very soon will be) in Cupertino trying on the glass slipper.  picture-12

 

 

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iPhonAsia comment: 3G licenses were “approved” at year’s end (2008) … and now (apparently) they will formally be “issued” … This will unleash about $41 billion (USD) in cap ex to build out 3G network capacity.

3G licenses tipped today for all three

picture-3The mainland telecoms regulator will likely issue licenses for third-generation (3G) mobile services today to all three telecom operators, a senior industry source said.

China Mobile »”>China Mobile(0941) will be issued a 3G license today, mainland news portal Sina.com reported yesterday.

However, the industry source said all three operators will receive 3G licenses on the same day. It would be politically unwise for the government to issue a license to one operator before the other two, the source said.

China Telecom, which is getting a license based on the US-developed CDMA2000 technology, will likely be the fastest to launch 3G services, the source said. China Telecom will start operating 3G services in the affluent coastal provinces and some first-tier cities in less than a month, according to the source. China Telecom could then fine-tune its offerings before launching 3G services nationwide, probably in about three months.

China Unicom, which will offer services based on the European-backed WCDMA technology, will likely take more than a year before it can launch nationwide 3G services, according to the source. Unicom may be able to launch services in a few select cities after six months, the source said.

China Mobile has a headstart, having run a test network for two years based on homegrown TD-SCDMA.

China Unicom shares fell 5.3 percent to HK$10.28 yesterday as investors locked in recent gains. China Mobile fell 2.4 percent to HK$83.

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China Mobile cuts Internet fees to tap smartphone use

picture-3China Mobile has slashed the mobile Internet traffic fee by up to 70 percent in many areas, including Shanghai and Beijing, since Thursday.

china-mobile-iphone-3gThe latest move will attract more of the more than 600 million Chinese handset users to access the Internet, and boost the demand of smartphones and lift sales of mobile service providers, industry insiders said.

Under the new general packet radio service, or GPRS, policy in Shanghai,China Mobile »”>China Mobile now charges users 5 yuan (73 US cents) for 30 megabytes of data traffic monthly, an increase of 10MB last year. The package also includes 20 yuan for 150MB and 200 yuan for 5 gigabyte. The additional data traffic, excluding the package, costs 0.01 yuan for each kilobyte now, against 0.03 yuan previously. On average, China Mobile charges users 0.16 yuan for each megabyte of data traffic on the cellular network from Thursday, compared with 0.50 yuan previously.

Analysts see China Mobile’s price cut as a fight back to the expansion of China Telecom, which acquired the mobile business through the recent industry reorganization. China Telecom launched its new mobile brand eSurfing two weeks ago, which integrates fixed-line and Wi-Fi features.

China Mobile’s new data traffic policy has taken effect in Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin as well as Jiangsu and Hubei provinces.

“The lower data traffic and the coming 3G will enrich the wireless functions and make some applications affordable, like mobile TV,” said Deng Yuqiang, chief executive of 3G.cn. It is one of the country’s biggest wireless service providers of news, ring tones and videos, and has 40 million handset users.

On Wednesday, the State Council, or China’s Cabinet, approved the issuance of licenses for third-generation mobile phone services or 3G. The government approved 3G technologies based on the CDMA 2000 (code division multiple access), WCDMA (wideband CDMA) and the home-grown standard TD-SCDMA (time division-synchronized CDMA). The 3G allows users to enjoy high-speed data transfer and supports new services like video call and film download onto cell phones.

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Here (below) is iPhonAsia’s comment to Ryan Barnes’ article China Mobile: Tea Leaves Give Mixed Reading, published on Seeking Alpha, November 27, 2008.  Read > HERE

Nice article Ryan … 

I thought it was interesting to read recent comments from China Mobile’s CEO re Apple’s App Store … Wang Jianzhou gave Apple and Steve Jobs kudos for the tremendous success with the iPhone and App Store. Yet it is apparent that China Mobile wants to control the entire wireless value added services platform. Wang Jianzhou has hinted about building their own App Store and even a wireless handset operating system (Android based) that supports China Mobile’s Monternet VAS.

Few handsets today are delivering a superior net browsing experience and China Mobile is none too pleased with the initial crop of TD-SCDMA ready handsets (when people don’t like your network, blame the phone). They have high hopes for the forthcoming crop of TD-SCDMA models from Nokia, HTC/Android and the rumored but yet to be confirmed TD iPhone 3G from Apple. 

My hope is that Apple will have two iPhone deals in China … One with China Mobile … the aforementioned “customized” TD iPhone 3G, and a second deal with China Unicom to deliver a more standard iPhone 3G. 

China MIIT has dropped several recent hints over issuance of all three 3G licenses within the next 90 days. I wouldn’t hold my breath … but it is looking like this just might happen. China Unicom has also hinted that they will be ready to launch their W-CDMA network by mid-2009. This will bring some legitimate competition to China’s mobile market. 

It’s my belief that China Unicom would be more willing to give free reign to handset makers’ services and innovations – such as Apple’s (e.g. App Store, Mobile Me, Wifi, iTunes [someday] and in the future “wave-pay”)

In my view China Mobile attempting to control the entire VAS ecosystem is not going to work for many hundreds of millions of wireless customers and China Mobile stands to lose customers to China Unicom and China Telecom if they insist on over-customization and total control of handsets. 

~ Dan Butterfield, iPhonAsia

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