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Unicom set to launch Apple's iPhone 3G

THE iPhone 3G will debut in China in May using the most widely used third generation standard globally, industry sources said yesterday.

Apple Inc and China Unicom are close to an agreement to introduce the iPhone 3G into China, the world's biggest mobile phone market, industry officials said. It has been reported that Apple has been in talks with China Mobile since 2007 to introduce the iPhone into China but both sides haven't announced any agreement.

China Unicom, which will debut its 3G services using the widely used WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access) in May, said recently it was in talks with Apple to introduce iPhone 3G.

China Unicom, rather than China Mobile, is most likely to win the deal, according to market sources. China Mobile faces a barrier because it adopts the homegrown TD-SCDMA (time division-synchronous CDMA) 3G standard. But the iPhone 3G version supports WCDMA only. To develop an iPhone supporting another standard would be costly and time-consuming, with limited scale advantages, analysts said.

China Unicom is also understood to be prepared to offer more concessions than China Mobile, and the deal means limited or no changes to its iPhone hardware or business model, which means cost savings and reducing risks, according to Ovum, a United Kingdom-based IT consulting firm.

"It opens the door for Apple to enter the huge China market. It also gives China Unicom a competitive weapon in the high-value subscriber segment (against China Mobile)," said Sherrie Huang, an analyst at Ovum.

Both China Unicom and Apple declined to comment yesterday.



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