Apple, China Mobile in Talks to Take iPhone to China

Apple iPhone
Manuel Balce Ceneta
Apple iPhone

China Mobile, the world's top wireless carrier, hopes to wrap up construction this year of networks in the first eight cities to receive TD-SCDMA, the homegrown high-speed third-generation wireless standard, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

Wang Jianzhou also said the company was discussing the possibility of offering Apple's iPhones on its network, but brushed off suggestions they might come to an agreement soon.

Trials of TD-SCDMA are being conducted and once construction of all networks has been completed the company will embark on a final commercial trial, Wang told reporters at the Mobile Asia Congress in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.

"Once everything has been done, we will review the results accordingly," Wang said. The final trial will include testing out the network and the compatibility of phones that are used on it.

Wang expressed interest in Apple's iPhone, but there was no sign any deal would be reached soon. "We're discussing with Apple people but haven't any agreement," Wang told reporters. "Our customers like this kind of fashionable product, and I think the big problem is with this model," he said, without commenting further.

China Mobile's shares were down 1 percent on Tuesday, lagging a 0.1 percent dip in the benchmark index.

Regulators have been hammering out rules to allow red chips -- overseas-incorporated but Chinese-backed firms -- to list in Shanghai or Shenzhen, but China Mobile has declined to comment on when it would push through with a domestic stock listing.

"We, of course, are actively pursuing an A-share listing but exactly when that will happen will depend on the regulation being in place," Wang said. "This would be good for the Hong Kong market, the Chinese market and for us."

Market watchers expect the launch of 3G licenses to come after a restructuring of the domestic telecoms industry, but China Mobile's Wang declined to comment on the progress of talks revolving around the shake-up of China's telecom sector.

Like Unicom, China Mobile could get caught up in an industry shake-up that might see the wireless carrier swallow a smaller fixed-line rival, according to state media reports.