Apple’s iPhone is set to launch with a second carrier in China, breaking China Unicom’s current reign of exclusivity it has held since 2009. China Telecom — the country’s third-largest carrier with 106 million subscribers — is reportedly completing negotiations with Apple that will see the carrier selling the device before the end of this year.
A source close to China Telecom has revealed to Reuters that the company has the technology in place to launch the iPhone, it is just waiting on the go-ahead from Apple:
“It’s expected to happen this year. China Telecom already has the required technology and it all hinges on the content of the agreement. As we all know, it’s not easy to negotiate with Apple.”
Of course, China Telecom’s chairman, Wang Xiaochu, already revealed back in May that the company had contacted Apple to bring a CDMA iPhone to the carrier, which it hopes will boost its 3G user base. Jane Wang, an analyst with UK-based research firm Ovum, says that carriers are all keen to offer the iPhone:
“The reason telecom operators are fighting for the iPhone business is because everybody is trying to grab as many 3G users as possible. The only way to keep costs down it to build up such a user base.”
However, recent speculation had suggested China Mobile may be the next in line for the iPhone in China.
China Mobile is China’s largest carrier with a staggering 611 million subscribers. That number would obviously mean big business for Apple, but there’s currently one stumbling block that prevents the carrier from picking up the iPhone, and that is that it runs a proprietary TD-SCDMA network — incompatible with current models of the iPhone.
In order to launch the device with China Mobile, Apple would have to launch a whole new iPhone with a compatible wireless chip — similar to the CDMA device made for the Verizon network.
Recent rumors have claimed that Apple is working on a TD-SCDMA compatible device, however, which have been strengthened by photographs of what appears to be an iPhone 4 running on the China Mobile network with an unreleased base band version. Tim Cook, Apple’s COO, has also been spotted at China Mobile’s HQ.