China Unicom Won’t Function as Exclusive iPhone Carrier in China

Following last Friday’s announcement that the iPhone would become available in China late this year, Apple has confirmed its agreement with China Unicom is not exclusive to the carrier. Per CNNMoney, an Apple spokesperson confirmed that the China Unicom contract is not exclusive. The person declined, however, to detail whether or not Apple is in negotiations with other possible carriers.

Last week, the chairman of China Unicom said he believes his company will remain the only carrier of the iPhone because it operates on the WCDMA standard, the third-generation successor to the GSM platform. China Unicom currently runs a GSM/UMTS 3G mobile network using the same signaling technology at AT&T in the U.S. and most other carriers worldwide. For Apple to release the iPhone on competing carriers, it would need to alter the device’s inner workings.

However, Apple has already modified the iPhone for China, reportedly developing a new hardware model that lacks Wi-Fi and operates on the 900MHz, 1700MHz and 1900MHz bands. That device, given government regulatory approval for use on China Unicom in July, can be sold in the country for five years.

Last Friday, China Unicom and Apple announced a three-year deal to sell the iPhone in China. The carrier has announced plans to launch its 3G network on Sept. 28 in anticipation of the iPhone’s debut. China Unicom has an estimated 141 million subscribers, and plans to offer 3G access in 335 cities before 2010.

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