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China Unicom to launch iPhone
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China Unicom will introduce the iPhone 3G to the Chinese market at an uncertain date as it continues talks with Apple, a China Unicom worker said recently.

"The talk hasn't reached a final agreement on time and details," said the Unicom worker, according to Sina.com. "But the two companies, in fact, have agreed that China Unicom will introduce iPhone to the Chinese market.

"That's all I can reveal," he added. "There's no need to make further speculation."

Unicom's senior management held a talk with Apple in March. Although no agreement was reached, Unicom reportedly continued to negotiate with Apple but has declined to comment on any discussions.

Apple has faced criticism for its rigid sales strategy in North America, which restricts carriers to develop new users. Users in the United States have to sign a two-year contract with AT&T and pay for other service fees, as well as at least US$199 for the iPhone. Apple receives shares from the carrier's monthly revenues. The model was also applied in the U.K. and Germany.

Mobile carriers can also receive a license to sell iPhones if they guarantee to sell a certain amount of iPhones at a set price that ensures Apple's profits.

It is unclear which mode China Unicom will follow.

The Unicom worker said software and built-in service widgets are the main obstacles to the iPhone's launch in China.

Unicom requires all mobile phones supporting wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) to have built-in Unicom 3G services to ensure the 3G service charges.

Unicom's 3G service packages, which range from 186 yuan to 1,000 yuan a month, offer six categories of mobile services including video communication, mobile Internet access, music, television, mobile newspaper and wireless network card. These service widgets will need to be installed on the iPhones, which will take some time.

Another obstacle comes from China's Wi-Fi restriction. According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Wi-Fi-incorporated mobile internet terminals sold in the domestic market must also include WLAN authentication and privacy infrastructure (WAPI). Apple would need to make special iPhones that have both Wi-Fi and WAPI functions for the Chinese market.

According to an earlier report, Apple submitted an iPhone 3G model to China Telecommunication Technology Labs that had no Wi-Fi function.

(China.org.cn by Huang Shan July 13, 2009)

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