China Mobile has yet to bring the Apple iPhone under its wing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not trying. Following years of butting heads with Apple over revenue-sharing negotiations, China Mobile is apparently crawling back to Steve Jobs in hopes that the iPhone Godfather will give the wireless network an iPhone variant that’s compatible with its home-grown 3G technology. The Chinese carrier’s CEO Wang Jianzhou mentioned during an annual conference call that he’d like for Apple to include the TD-SCDMA 3G technology in its next-generation smartphone.
China Mobile is the world’s largest wireless carrier (by subscriber count), and has the potential to seriously boost Apple’s sales in the Asian country. But, with revenue sharing considerations, AppStore conflicts, and its proprietary 3G network getting in the way, the carrier has yet to offer the iconic Apple phone to its customers. A China Mobile iPhone with full 3G functionality would require Apple to include new hardware in the iPhone – namely the TD-SCDMA radio that would connect to the wonky 3G network.
Wang Jianzhou claimed that BlackBerry maker RIM “is doing it” and that it should not be “that hard to do.” Unfortunately, that’s not going to help his company’s case. Apple is on a mission to spread its standard iPhone across the globe, and it’s no easy task adding TD-SCDMA hardware into the slim handset. It would also cost Apple extra dough to redesign the iPhone to include support for China Mobile’s 3G technology.
Since China’s 3G initiative to bring high-speed mobile data speeds to its wireless subscribers, China Mobile has seen its new subscriber sign-ups drop from a whopping 95% to just over 50%. Part of the problem is its non-standard 3G network that has proven more problematic than helpful. “In January China Mobile regained more than 50 per cent share of new subscribers, but how sustainable is that? They are clearly struggling in 3G,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA, a Beijing telecom consultancy.
While we’d love to see China Mobile picking up an iPhone – especially one with WiFi enabled – we’re not going to hold our breath. China Unicom and China Telecom already have iPhone offerings of their own that don’t require specialized variants from Apple, but sales have so far proven lackluster.