iPhone craze helps to boost China Unicom

By Shen Jingting
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, January 22, 2011
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iPhone craze helps to boost China Unicom
A poster promoting the iPhone 4 at a China Unicom store. The Chinese operator's 3G user-numbers rose sharply partly due to the boost from the popular device made by Apple Inc. [Photo / China Daily]

The iPhone craze helped China Unicom attract 140.6 million 3G subscribers in 2010, and analysts expected the figure to surge to more than 400 million this year.

China Unicom said on Wednesday that the number of 3G users increased by 1.28 million in December, to reach 140.6 million. The figure exceeded the company's previous annual target of 100 million.

China Unicom's 3G-user numbers lagged behind those of China Mobile's 207 million at the end of last year. Among the three Chinese carriers, China Telecom took the smallest share of the market. The company did not reveal its current number of 3G users, but industry analysts expected the figure to have surpassed 110 million in 2010.

The hot sales of iPhone devices, in conjunction with price cuts for 3G packages, have boosted China Unicom's subscription rate, said Lu Libin, an analyst at the Beijing-based researcher, Analysys International.

China Unicom is the only Chinese carrier offering Apple Inc's iPhone series with a contract. The in-demand iPhone 4 has helped the company woo a considerable number of customers away from its biggest rival, China Mobile, analysts said, although the exact number is not available.

Yu Yingtao, general manger at China Unicom's marketing department, previously told the Chinese media that daily orders for the iPhone 4 reached more than 10,000. Total sales of China Unicom's iPhone 4 may have topped 1.3 million by mid-December 2010, Yu said.

Since making its debut on the Chinese market in September, 2010, the iPhone 4 has rapidly become the most sought-after mobile device in the country. However, a supply shortage has seen clients waiting for months to collect their phones, and scalpers have taken advantage of the delay to sell the device at hundreds of yuan more than the official price.

"The short supply has long existed worldwide. We have contacted Apple, and attempted to come up with measures to resolve the issue," Yu said.

China Telecom also expressed a willingness to cooperate with Apple, especially when the biggest US carrier, Verizon, launched the CDMA-version of the iPhone earlier this month.

Speculation about when China Telecom will bring in a CDMA-version iPhone has been prevalent in the Chinese media. However, Wang Xiaochu, chairman and chief executive officer of China Telecom, on Tuesday declined to reveal the company's exact plan for the introduction of the device, as "negotiations (with Apple) are ongoing".

"I expect China Telecom's CDMA iPhone will be released at least two months later than Verizon's launch. Because of production limitations, there can't be a sufficient supply of CDMA iPhones for China at present," said Lu at Analysys International.

"The timing is important. If the launch of the CDMA iPhone is even later than that of the iPhone 5, there will be little competitive edge for the gadget in China," he added.


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