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China Mobile pleads for compatible iPhone

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China Mobile's inability to sell the latest tech is starting to hurt, with the company's head asking Apple to develop a TD-SCDMA version of the iPhone, please.

The call came during the company's annual results as the FT reports - Wang Jianzhou (chair and CEO of China Mobile) pointed out that RIM is prepared to create a China-Mobile-specific BlackBerry, so surely Apple could see its way to making a handset that China Mobile customers could use.

Rather than mandate a single technical standard as Europe did, or leave it to the free market to decide on a winner the American way, China requires each of its three operators to deploy different 3G technologies, with China Mobile being shackled with the country's own TD-SCDMA standard and starting to suffer from it.

China Unicom, with a mere 125 million customers, got the rest-of-the-world 3G-standard WCDMA, so can sell iPhones to its heart's content. China Telecom is stuck with CDMA-2000, but then it only has 43 million customers so hardly counts.

But China Mobile's half-billion customers are stuck with the locally-developed TD-SCDMA "standard" and can only hope that the sight of all those customers will seduce companies into making compatible handsets - it worked on RIM, so why not on Apple?

But RIM has a range of handsets, including CDMA versions for use on the US networks that still offer greater coverage than their WCDMA-based rivals. Apple has always stuck to the GSM/WCDMA path despite calls in the USA for the iPhone to be cross-network.

Sticking to one radio standard has distinct advantages, and Apple will not want to start creating local versions; but 500 million is a lot of potential customers that even Steve Jobs might not be able to ignore.

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