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December 22, 2009

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Telco raises stake with BlackBerry

CHINA Telecom Corp yesterday signed an agreement with Canada-based Research In Motion Ltd to offer BlackBerry phones on the Chinese mainland as it competes to gain market share in the smartphone sector against its two rivals.

China Mobile has also said it would launch BlackBerry and other 3G smartphones under the Ophone brand while China Unicom is selling iPhones in cooperation with Apple Inc.

Talks are still going on to launch the BlackBerry on the mainland, the world's No. 1 market with more than 700 million users, and China Telecom hasn't finalized a timetable when it will start offering the device, the telco said yesterday.

"Now we also have a well-known 3G smartphone brand (after China Mobile's Ophone and China Unicom's iPhone)," said a China Telecom's Shanghai branch official, who declined to be identified.

China Telecom, the country's biggest fixed-line phone operator, is using the CDMA (code division multiple access) 3G technology, claimed as the fastest of the three 3G technologies in China. But the CDMA technology suffers from limited cell phone choices, especially in the smartphone category, compared with China Unicom's WCDMA (Wideband CDMA) technology.

In the third quarter, smartphone sales globally grew 12.1 percent year on year to 41.06 million units, compared with the 0.1 percent rise for the total handset market, according to Gartner Inc, a United States-based IT research firm.

RIM ranked No. 2 in the smartphone market globally with 20.1 percent market share by the end of the third quarter, a rise of 5 percentage points from a year ago. Nokia ranked No. 1 with a 39.3 percent market share, Gartner said.

RIM has said it would offer BlackBerry handsets to individual users and small businesses in China with China Mobile Ltd. It also plans to introduce a BlackBerry handset running on the Chinese-developed TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous CDMA) 3G technology.

RIM is not new in the smartphone market on the mainland as it offered its phones to big businesses in China through China Mobile in 2006 and charged high prices for its service.



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