Chinese Carriers Interested in iPhone

November 16th, 2007 - 9:11 pm ICT by admin  

Apple might have a bidding war on its hands in China. A day after China Mobile CEO Wang Jianzhou announced the country’s largest wireless carrier is in negotiations with Apple to sell the iPhone, the No. 2 firm, China Unicom, signaled it would like to talk iPhone too.

“We’re not in any discussions with Apple right now,” Li Zhengmao, a China Unicom executive, said at the GSM Association’s Mobile Asia Congress Wednesday. “But of course, we’re always willing to discuss a good business opportunity if it presents itself. As for whether we’ll talk about iPhones with Apple, you’ll have to ask Apple.”

That’s a huge opening for Apple because in comments Tuesday, China Mobile’s Wang indicated he would play tough with Apple over the revenue-sharing that CEO Steve Jobs has extracted from every other carrier that sells the iPhone.

“We still think we can maintain the operator-centric model because we have the customers, the end users,” Wang said at the conference.

Steve Jobs Will Insist

In an e-mail from China where he is traveling, Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Creative Strategies, said that while “the news that China Mobile wants the iPhone is a big deal here, I find it hard to believe that Jobs will give up the secondary revenue he has tied to this phone.” Jobs will try hard to “make that a part of any deal he cuts with China Mobile,” Bajarin said.

But as China’s largest carrier with 350 million customers, China Mobile would have substantial leverage to cut a better deal. “Given the large customer base, it is conceivable that the revenue split might be more negotiable,” Bajarin said.

China Unicom has only half as many customers, about 156 million, and thus might be willing to give Jobs the kind of revenue-sharing he’s achieved from AT&T in the U.S., as well…

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