Analyst: CDMA iPhone Coming to China Telecom in 2012

AAPL 10-31-2011Apple’s CDMA-based iPhone will most likely find a new home with China Telecom during the first half of 2012, according to research from UBS analysts Jinjin Wang and Maynard Um. If so, China Telecom will get what they see as a much needed addition to its high-end phone lineup.

“Jinjin Wang believes that China Telecom needs an improved handset portfolio and more support from third party distribution channels in order to drive further stand alone wireless service,” Mr. Um said. “The CDMA iPhone launch should be a positive driver as it will also help China Telecom penetrate the high-end segment.”

Apple currently has an exclusive partner deal with China Unicom for the iPhone, so adding a second official carrier would open up the combination iPod and smartphone to an even larger customer base in the country. Despite China Unicom’s exclusive deal, China Mobile claims to have 10 million iPhone users on its network.

It may be mid year, however, before China Telecom finally gets the CDMA iPhone. “Checks with value chain suppliers indicate a February/March 2012 if not mid-2012 launch,” Mr. Um said.

Mr. Um is maintaining his “Buy” rating and US$510 target price for Apple’s stock. Apple is currently trading at $406.55, up 1.60 (0.40%).