China Unicom to sell iPhone next quarter

China Unicom has reached a 3-year deal with Apple to offer the iPhone in China, it said Friday, confirming rumors that have swirled for months.

The company expects to launch the phone in the fourth quarter this year, it said in a statement. The deal brings the iPhone to a huge market in a country with nearly 700 million mobile subscribers.

The company listed both the 8GB iPhone 3G and 16GB and 32GB versions of the iPhone 3GS as models it will launch in a document posted on its Web site. The document advertised a "competitive purchase cost" for the phones, without giving details.

The iPhone is already popular among fashion-conscious Chinese users who buy smuggled versions or get the phones abroad.

The iPhone supports WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access), a 3G standard being promoted by China Unicom that is also used in Europe and by some operators in the U.S. But the iPhone offered by China Unicom is unlikely to support Wi-Fi, which was not listed in the record for an unnamed Apple device that received one of the government licenses needed to be sold in China.

China has not allowed Wi-Fi on mobile phones until this year, when it began allowing handsets that support a domestically developed security protocol for wireless LANs.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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