China Mobile may be the world’s biggest carrier with over 740 million subscribers, but it is yet to tie up a deal with Apple for the iPhone. That could change this fall when the Cupertino company unveils the iPhone 5S and a low-cost “iPhone 5C” for emerging markets, which are expected to include support for China Mobile’s 4G LTE network.
According to China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua, the company is already in talks with Apple, and “both sides are keen” to reach a deal.
That’s hardly surprising. China Mobile would open up the iPhone to a tremendous number of potential new customers, and it would surely see the iPhone’s market share increase in China — particularly if Apple makes a low-cost model available there.
What’s more, it could help China Mobile recover lost subscribers that have switched to rival carriers in order to get their hands on Apple’s smartphone.
The iPhone is over six years old now, and it’s a surprise it hasn’t reached China Mobile already. But none of Apple’s iPhones to date have brought support for its TD-SCDMA 3G network, and the company has obviously been unwilling to build a modified version for one carrier — albeit the world’s biggest.
But later this year, Beijing is expected to grant new 4G licenses that will favor the biggest of its domestic mobile operators, Reuters reports. What’s more, Apple is also scheduled to announce the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, which should bring support for China Mobile’s unique networks.
“While the 4G licenses are expected to be based on TD-LTE technology, rather than the more widely-used FDD-LTE, the new Qualcomm chips can handle both systems, saving Apple from a major re-design just for the Chinese market,” Reuters reports.
China Mobile has also confirmed it’s already in talks with Apple over its upcoming devices.
“We are actively negotiating and both sides are keen,” Xi told reporters on Thursday after announcing China Mobile’s half-year financial results. “There are still some commercial and technology issues that need time to resolve,” he added.