China Unicom (中國聯通), one of the country’s three major telecom operators, said yesterday it had moved closer to a deal with US high-tech giant Apple on selling the iPhone in the world’s largest mobile market.
“We have made progress, but there are still some problems to be resolved,” said a Unicom press officer who declined to be named.
“Both sides have their own time frame for an agreement, but essentially it depends on the practical progress of the negotiations,” he said.
His comments came after state-run Shanghai Securities News yesterday cited unnamed sources as saying the company had won the right to be the sole supplier of iPhone third generation (3G) handsets in China for three years.
China had 687 million cellphone users at the end of May, government data showed.
Third-generation telecom services are based on technologies that permit transmission of images and video at high speed.
If the deal is confirmed, it would mean Apple has dropped China Mobile (中國移動), the world’s largest mobile phone network operator, which has been in similar talks with the US company for years.
Unicom is expected to start selling the iconic phones in China at the end of September at a price of no more than 3,000 yuan (US$440), the report cited sources familiar with the matter as saying.
In its deal with Apple, it has guaranteed to sell up to 2 million units a year with sales worth no less than 5 billion yuan, the sources were quoted as saying.
A thriving black market in the popular handset has established itself in China, with prices set as high as nearly 5,000 yuan each, the report said.
China Unicom, which had 140 million mobile subscribers as of last month, expects to attract high-end users with the iPhone to turn around weak performance in competition with arch rivals China Mobile and China Telecom (中國電信), the report said.
In order to secure the deal, China Unicom has agreed, among other things, to allow Apple to pre-install its online software shop on the iPhone, a condition China Mobile would not accept, the report said.