updated 02:50 am EDT, Fri October 8, 2010
China Telecom talking to Apple, Qualcomm on iPhone
A Deutsche Bank analyst fueled further talk of a CDMA iPhone with word of a possible China Telecom deal in a research note reported today. "Intensive" supplier checks purportedly showed that the second-largest Chinese carrier was talking not only to Apple but to the CDMA chipset supplier, Qualcomm, to guarantee a deal, according to the South China Morning Post's copy of the note. It wasn't said how close a deal might be or whether there would be any changes to the rumored American design.
Officials sitting down with the analyst wouldn't confirm or deny any launch plans, which the Deutsche Bank expert put in early next year, as with the anticipated Verizon launch.
A deal would be a potential coup for Apple and would go a significant distance towards justifying a CDMA edition of the phone. China Telecom had 43 million cellular customers as of 2008 alone, or roughly half of Verizon's reach today. The deal if completed would also break another carrier exclusive besides AT&T's as China Unicom is currently the only major local provider capable of handling the iPhone as-is. China Mobile, the largest carrier, has been pressing for an agreement of its own, but it may have less of a chance as the government-endorsed TD-SCDMA format for 3G isn't used anywhere else.
Less pressure exists to add a second carrier in China compared to the US. After the quiet launch of the iPhone 3GS last year, the provider has now taken at least 200,000 orders and is still struggling to keep up with demand.
The alternate iPhone is still widely rumored to be in production late this year for an early 2011 release and could reach more than just China Telecom or Verizon. Sprint, Cellular South and US Cellular would be primary candidates in the US, but South Korea's SK Telecom and a handful of other providers in Asia also use the format.