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China Mobile Nearing Deal with Apple

Thu, 08/15/2013 - 9:55am
Ben Munson

Speaking on his company’s second quarter results, China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua sounded positive his company was getting closer to a deal for Apple’s iPhone.

China Mobile’s 740 million subscribers make it the biggest carrier in the world and an obvious target for Apple to extend its brand in China. China Telecom and China Unicom, the second and third biggest carriers in China, both carry the iPhone and have seen boosts in data consumption because of it.

China Mobile is pushing forward with its TD-LTE network. In June, the carrier issued a tender offer for suppliers to provide equipment for more than 200,000 base stations. The accelerated network build, coupled with device subsidies, has hurt the bottom line at China Mobile.

Though the iPhone traditionally carries steep subsidies, it would be a good match for China Mobile subscribers to really start taking advantage of China Mobile’s LTE. And with Apple reportedly due to introduce a new iPhone in September, the time for a partnership with China Mobile could be ideal.

Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly met with China Mobile—as well as representatives from China’s other major carriers—during a trip in July to investigate alleged poor working conditions in one of Apple’s China facilities.

Apple is rumored to be launching a low-cost version of its handset, the “iPhone 5C,” alongside its annual flagship iteration. If the iPhone 5C is in the works, it’s lower price point—no actual cost has been confirmed yet—could help Apple gain foothold in markets like China as well as other Asia/Pacific markets.

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