China Mobile looks set to begin offering Apple’s coveted iPhone to its huge customer base, with regulatory authorities reported to have approved the introduction of the device on the network technology used by the operator.
According to a report from Dow Jones Newswires, China’s Telecom Equipment Certification Center has issued a license to Apple (Cupertino, CA, USA) for handsets engineered to work on the TD-SCDMA and TD-LTE standards being used by China Mobile (Beijing, China) to support 3G and 4G services.
The authority is said to have issued similar licenses to Apple just weeks in advance of iPhone launches by China Telecom (Beijing, China) and China Unicom (Beijing, China), China Mobile’s smaller rivals.
China Mobile has been in discussions with Apple for several years but the manufacturer has never released a version of the iPhone that works on TD-SCDMA technology – a version of 3G used almost exclusively by China Mobile.
That shortcoming has allowed China Telecom and China Unicom to attack the number one player in the high-end smartphone market, although China Mobile remains the country’s biggest player by some margin.
Indeed, with about 700 million customers, the operator obviously represents an enticing partnership opportunity for Apple, which this week launched new versions of the iPhone aimed at lower-income users.
Research from Canalys indicates that Apple claimed only 5% of China’s handset market in the three-month period ending June, with market leader Samsung (Seoul, South Korea) serving 18% of customers.
According to Dow Jones, Apple chief executive Tim Cook has previously described the Chinese market as a significant growth opportunity for Apple due to its large number of potential first-time smartphone buyers.
The company currently maintains 11 retail stores in China, but Cook has set out plans to open another 11 in the next two years.