Apple and China Mobile both want iPhone agreement ASAP. TD-SCDMA still in the way

Apple and China Mobile are still in talks over the introduction of the iPhone on China’s biggest carrier. The information comes straight from Wang Jianzhou, the chairman of China Mobile.

He has said that during the company’s 2011 results conference that took place today. According to Jianzhou, both Apple and China Mobile hope that an agreement will be reached as soon as possible.

However, apparently the biggest obstacle preventing a deal from being reached is a technical issue. Sina doesn’t say what that is, but we can only assume it has to do with China Mobile’s unique flavor of 3G called TD-SCDMA. This is a standard that was developed in China specifically to avoid paying royalties to ‘Western’ firms, and up until now has only been used by China Mobile.

By contrast, the WCDMA tech that China Unicom (the country’s No.2 carrier) uses is the ‘3G’ you and I know and love from most of the world. Even China Telecom’s CDMA2000 3G is a lot more spread (especially in the USA, being used by carriers such as Verizon and Sprint) than TD-SCDMA at the moment.

China Mobile currently has 15 million iPhones active on its network, despite the fact that it doesn’t officially sell Apple’s gadget. And despite the fact that those customers can only use 2G mobile internet on their iPhones (which they can since thankfully the 2G tech that China Mobile uses is the good old fashioned GSM).

Since the first iPhone arrived in China, Apple has worked with China Unicom as the exclusive carrier over there. That all changed earlier this month when China Telecom also started selling the iPhone 4S.

China Unicom is basically selling the international version of the iPhone, and China Telecom got the SKU that both Verizon and Sprint have been offering in the States for a while now. So both those partnerships have been easy for Apple to do from a technical standpoint.

So what remains to be seen is whether the Cupertino company will conclude that China Mobile’s 650 million+ subscriber base is reason enough for it to try and develop an iPhone with TD-SCDMA support. Or if it will decide to just wait for China Mobile to adopt LTE in a couple of years or so. Judging from what the China Mobile chairman had to say today, the former now seems more likely than the latter.

Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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