After months of speculation, China Unicom, the country's second largest wireless carrier, has made it official: The Apple iPhone will soon be available in China.
China has been one of the largest iPhone holdouts since the device first launched in June 2007. China is also the world's largest mobile phone market, with more than 1 billion people, nearly 700 million of whom use mobile phones.
As expected, China Unicom on Friday revealed a three-year deal that will bring the Apple iPhone to China. China Unicom will offer two versions of the iPhone come the fourth quarter of 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported. The Chinese iPhone models will have Wi-Fi disabled, which is required by government regulations, The Journal wrote.
The new Apple iPhone was approved for use on China Unicom's network in July. The smartphone is GSM/WCDMA that operates on the 900MHz, 1,700MHz and 1,900MHz bands.
So far, China Unicom has divulged few details of the Chinese iPhone. China Unicom Chairman and Chief Executive Chang Xiaobing said that the price would be competitive, though he did not specify what that price would be, Reuters reported.
China Unicom also said it bought iPhones in bulk from Apple and that it would not use Apple's traditional revenue sharing model, but didn't offer additional details, Reuters reported. China Unicom's bulk iPhone purchase jibes with reports from earlier this month that the Chinese carrier paid roughly $1.5 billion for 5 million iPhones.
Over the past few months, China Unicom has admitted that it was in talks with Apple about bringing the iPhone to China, but was tight-lipped about the discussions' progress.