updated 08:50 am EDT, Wed May 25, 2011
China Unicom cuts price on iPhone rates
China Unicom president Lu Yimin told investors late Tuesday that his company had started offering an ultra low-cost iPhone plan. The 66 yuan ($10) plan was about a third cheaper than before and designed to curb moves from other carriers. Company CEO Chang Xiaobing saw a "trend" towards rival carriers offering services with unlocked iPhones, according to Bloomberg's version of events.
The carrier is the only one of the top three that can currently run the iPhone as-is, but smaller companies using GSM networks have the advantage of access to unlocked iPhones, whether from Hong Kong or unofficial hacks. China Unicom is negotiating for the CDMA version. China Mobile, the country's largest carrier, is trying to steer phone makers towards China-only standards like TD-SCDMA and TD-LTE and is said to have reached an agreement with Apple for the basic ideas of a future 4G iPhone.
The pricing could help fuel already strong sales of the iPhone 4. It may also help curb the rise of cheap Android smartphones in the country. Although China Unicom contributes to it, companies like Huawei and ZTE have become top manufacturers in part because of the low costs of ownership but also the free rein on networks where Apple currently can't operate.