China Mobile and Research in Motion will offer BlackBerry handsets and Internet service to consumers as well as smaller firms in China, the two firms said on Tuesday.
To attract more consumer users, China Mobile would offer BlackBerry phones on China's homegrown TD-SCDMA and TD-LTE networks, the companies said in a joint statement, intensifying the competition among China's telecom trio in handsets.
The companies gave no timeframe for their sales campaign.
China Mobile , the world's largest mobile carrier by subscribers, has offered BlackBerries for large enterprise customers in China since 2006, but has not aggressively promoted the service until recently.
We will broaden BlackBerry's application from big companies, to small-and-medium sized enterprises, and to individuals, said Wang Jianzhou, the company's chairman.
We will jointly offer BlackBerry Internet Service in the future, to cater to the needs of individual customers, he told reporters.
China Unicom, the country's No. 2 mobile carrier, has already begun to sell Apple Inc's iPhone in China. China Telecom is reportedly aiming to sell BlackBerry and Palm smartphones by early next year.
Wang's firm, the country's dominant mobile carrier with more than two-thirds of the market, was asked by the nation's regulator to build a national TD-SCDMA network.
Its rivals, Unicom and Telecom, have acquired two more technically mature licenses, WCDMA and CDMA 2000, respectively.
Despite spending billions of dollars, China Mobile's homegrown 3G network has only received lukewarm acceptance largely due to a lack of handsets.
The Beijing-based wireless carrier has urged global cellphone makers to speed their development for phones running on TD-SCDMA network, which so far has not been used on a large scale in countries other than China.
Nokia , joining a number of its peers such as Samsung <005930.KS> and Motorola , launched its first TD-SCDMA handset in October.
Analysts and observers say China Mobile's true ambition is to get a jump on TD-SCDMA's 4G successor -- Time Division Long-Term Evolution (TD-LTE) -- in hopes the technology will mature enough by then to win global acceptance.
RIM is committed to developing TD-SCDMA-enabled handsets with China Mobile, said Jim Basillie, Co-CEO of RIM, adding that he had moments earlier made the first trial call to China Mobile's Wang using TD-SCDMA capable BlackBerry handsets.
The Canadian firm plans to increase investment in China, in areas ranging from a manufacturing facility to an R&D center, Basillie said, declining to give a specific figure.
Research In Motion will distribute BlackBerry handsets in China through the network of Digital China <0861.HK>, a Hong Kong-listed information technology company and a subsidiary of Legend Group, the companies said on Monday.
(Additional reporting by Huang Yuntao and Kitty Bu; Editing by Ken Wills)