China Mobile CEO Wang Jianzhou said on Monday that the nation's biggest mobile provider is still in talk with Apple on iPhone, echoing Apple China's statement that its three-year agreement with China Unicom is not exclusive to the carrier.
Apple and China Unicom last Friday made joint announcement of three-year agreement on iPhone's entry into the huge Chinese market, with the launch being expected in the fourth quarter of 2009.
China Unicom said it bought the phones in a bulk purchase from Apple, and would not use Apple's traditional revenue sharing model, but did not offer any details.
China Unicom chairman said last week he believes his company will remain the only carrier of the iPhone because it operates on the WCDMA standard, the third-generation successor to the GSM platform. The carrier runs a GSM/UMTS 3G mobile network using the same signaling technology at AT&T in the U.S. and most other carriers worldwide.
However, an Apple spokesperson told Dow Jones Newswires that the companies deal with China Unicom, unlike its previous deals, is not exclusive and they will not be the sole carrier of the iPhone in the nation of over one billion.
The spokesperson declined, however, to detail whether or not Apple is in negotiations with other possible carriers.
China Mobile has never stopped its negotiation with Apple, CEO Wang Jianzhou told reporters during an interview, and they are still seeking co-ops to bring iPhones to China Mobile's clients.
This means that if Apple would want to release the iPhone on competing carriers, it would need to alter the device's inner workings, which Apple has already done.
Meanwhile, China Mobile on Monday officially launched its OPhone platform in answer to China Unicom's launch of Apple iPhone.
OPhones run OMS (Open Mobile System), a China Mobile-branded fork of Google's Android, and they will be made by a number of prominent manufacturers, including Dell, HTC, Lenovo. China Mobile showed off devices by all three manufacturers and said it expects companies such as Samsung, ZTE, Phillips, Motorola, and LG to support the platform
China is becoming increasingly important in the mobile industry due to the number of potential subscribers. China Mobile alone has about 500 million subscribers, which is more than the entire population of the United States and Japan combined. China Unicom is the country's second-largest wireless operator with more than 125 million subscribers, and this is far larger than the subscriber base of AT&T or Verizon Wireless.
The iPhone is an important product for China Unicom to promote its 3G, while the Ophone helps China Mobile further promote the development of 3G handsets.