An iPhone for 600 million in China?

January 26, 2011: 12:39 PM ET

Remarks made in Davos suggest that Apple is building a model for China Mobile

Will the iPhone 5 be the one that finally cracks open the No. 1 carrier in the world's biggest cell phone market?

That's the thrust of a report out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that cites remarks made by China Mobile (CHL) chairman Wang Jianzhou.

"We hope that when they develop the next-generation models, since Apple can create CDMA, they can also consider developing TD-SCDMA," Wang was quoted as saying in Reuters report Wednesday, via the Chinese-language Sina Technology news portal.

"These two years we have been discussing the issue," Wang continues. "Right now the situation is moving forward. Apple has made it clear they will support TD-LTE."

Currently, Apple (AAPL) sells iPhones in China only to customers of China Unicom (CHU), the country's No. 2 carrier with 125 million GSM subscribers and 43 million subscribers with CDMA phones, the protocol Verizon (VZ) uses.

Several sources have suggested that the next iPhone might support LTE -- Long Term Evolution -- one of the so-called fourth generation protocols to which Wang was referring.

"We remain long-term bulls on the Apple story in China, and this morning's news out of Sina.com provides further support for our stance," wrote Ticonderoga Securites' Brian White in a note to clients Wednesday.

"Eventually, we believe Apple will sign a deal with the world's largest wireless carrier and clearly China's largest carrier."

In a Twitter message posted from Davos, Idealab's Bill Gross quoted China Mobile's CEO as claiming 600 million subscribers, a number he says is growing by 5 million per month.

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

Join the Conversation
About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

Email | @philiped | RSS
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.