BEIJING: China Unicom \, the country's No 2 mobile carrier, said yesterday that Apple's popular iPhone will retail on the mainland for 5,000 yuan ($732.50), above market expectation, and more than seven times the $99 price for the 3G model currently listed at www.apple.com/iPhone, and 3.6 times the posted $199 price for the more advanced 3GS.
Eight service packages would be available for iPhones ranging from 126 yuan to 886 yuan per month, Unicom said in a statement. It said it would provide subsidies of 893 yuan to 4,253 yuan for people who sign up for the plans, which would make the plan-based mainland price virtually identical to the stand-alone US price of $99, as compared with a stand-alone iPhone in Hong Kong, which starts at around HK$5,388 ($695).
Analysts said Unicom may have set the price high to force buyers of the popular handsets to sign up for packages carrying longer-term contract commitments as competition heats up in the recently reformed sector.
Unicom said the phones would be available for services starting October 1, following its August announcement that it would bring the popular handset to the mainland.
Many companies quote a price for a stand-alone iPhone, but also offer heavily discounted prices for people who sign multi-year service contracts.
Unicom rival China Telecom has already said it would increase its own handset subsidies to 37 percent of wireless revenues, from 30 percent.
Unicom announced the prices and plans as it embarks on an aggressive campaign to sign up customers for its recently introduced third-generation (3G) cellular service.
Unicom said it had signed up 530,000 3G users since the company started commercial trials of the network in May, including 430,000 cellphone users and 100,000 users of data cards that enable computers to connect to the Internet.
The mainland is the world's largest mobile market, with about 700 million subscribers, but the vast majority of those are still using older 2G services.
China Mobile, the world's largest mobile carrier, and the country's two smaller carriers are all being pressured by margins as they are in the middle of a three-year $58.5 billion spending spree through 2011 to build their 3G networks.
Unicom said earlier yesterday it would buy back a stake held by SK Telecom (SKT) for $1.3 billion, as the South Korean shareholder exited after China Unicom's move to boost its alliance with Spain's Telefonica.
China Daily - Reuters
(HK Edition 09/29/2009 page4)