Report: Apple Not Content with China Unicom Deal, Still Negotiating with China Mobile

Apple is still in negotiations with China Mobile to carry the iPhone, despite having inked a deal with China Unicom in August, or so said China Mobile Ltd. Chairman Wang Jianzhou. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Wang made the comments at the World Economic Forum, and that he stressed that Apple's deal with China Unicom was "absolutely not exclusive."

"We are still in talks [with Apple]. We still hope to reach an agreement, so I can't say anything else," Mr. Wang said at the conference.

China Mobile is China's largest cell phone carrier with more than 420 million customers -- that's more customers than the U.S. population in its entirety. In contrast, China Unicom has some 141 million customers, which is still almost twice as many as AT&T's 75 million customers.

Rumors and reports about Apple's efforts to get its iPhone into the Chinese market first centered around China Mobile. In November of 2007, Mr. Wang said at the GSM Association meeting that his customers liked "this kind of fashionable" device, but that he was not interested in Apple's then-business model of revenue sharing.

In June of 2008, another China Mobile executive said that the revenue sharing roadblock had been crossed. "We've broken through the biggest obstacle and we are negotiating at the working level," Gao Songge, deputy director of China Mobile's general department said.

So in some ways, it was a surprise when China Unicom took over as lead rumor target for a new China deal for the iPhone during the Spring and Summer of 2009.

One of the current stumbling blocks to a new deal with China Mobile is that of wireless technology. The Journal reported that Apple would either have to modify the iPhone to run on China Mobile's home-grown TD-SCDMA third-generation wireless technology platform or run on a slower 2G network that the firm also operates. the iPhone 3G and 3Gs currently operate on either EDGE networks (a 2G network) or the faster 3G UMTS/HSDP technology.