3 Sep 2009 11:24

Uncertainty over whether Apple-China Unicom deal exclusive

By Cindy Geng

Beijing. September 3. INTERFAX-CHINA - Conflicting announcements from the Apple Inc. and China Unicom camps have led to uncertainty over whether China Unicom signed an exclusive deal with Apple on Aug. 28 for the release of the 3G WCDMA iPhone in China.

According to a Sept. 1 Oriental Morning Post report, Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison said in an internal e-mail that the recently inked contract between China Unicom and Apple is not exclusive.

However, Chang Xiaobing, China Unicom's director of the board and chief executive officer, was cited as saying in a joint China Unicom and Apple announcement on Aug. 28 that the two parties had entered into an exclusive partnership.

"Apple has developed 3G iPhones exclusively for use on China Unicom's WCDMA network, and is not developing iPhones for use on any other 3G standards, including China Mobile's TD-SCDMA network," a China Unicom official, who wished to remain anonymous, told Interfax.

The source said that the development of an iPhone for China Mobile's 3G network would require substantial investment from Apple, and that initial talks crumbled as Apple was unwilling to develop an iPhone based on China Mobile's underdeveloped TD-SCDMA standard. A number of international handset manufacturers, like Nokia and Motorola, were reported to have encountered issues while creating TD-SCDMA-compatible handsets.

The source said that there is the possibility that China Mobile may partner with Apple to sell 2G iPhones in China. "In my opinion, China Mobile will not see much in terms of measurable results from introducing an outdated iPhone model to the Chinese market. The GSM standard cannot support high bandwidths and is unable to compete with the 3G network. Even if such a situation eventuates, it will not pose a threat to China Unicom," the source said.

Interfax reported previously that Wang Jianzhou, president of China Mobile, said during an Aug. 20 press conference that the operator was still exploring partnership possibilities with Apple.