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China Telecom ramps up iPhone 4S fanboi fever

State-run biz to punt shiny mobiles in March

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State-run mobile operator China Telecom has finally won the right to sell one of the most sought-after smartphones in the country, Apple’s iPhone 4S, from 9 March.

In a brief statement with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (PDF), the firm said that pre-sales of the device would begin online on 2 March.

“Following the launch of iPhone 4S, China Telecom will make an appropriate increase in marketing initiatives for the profitable scale development of its mobile services, which is expected to significantly enhance its long term sustainable growth and value creation despite the short term pressure on its profitability,” said CEO Wang Xiaochu in a canned statement.

According to the firm’s Chinese language website, it will be selling black and white versions of the iPhone 4S in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions with prices reportedly starting at 0 yuan on certain contracts.

The news will be a welcome boost for the operator, which is in third place behind China Unicom and leader China Mobile in its home market. The latter has nearly three-quarters of the market and with an estimated 650 million subscribers is the largest operator on the planet.

It is China Unicom which has had exclusivity on carrying the iPhone until now, although China Mobile has reportedly managed over 10 million users despite its not being officially sanctioned by Apple.

However, China Telecom is making the biggest noise in the UK, having just launched a virtual network for Chinese speakers in Blighty which will piggyback on Everything Everywhere’s network.

The news will also be welcomed by Apple as it seeks to gain a stronger foothold in the People’s Republic. Its mission to brainwash win the hearts and minds of the locals, took a massive knock on the iPhone 4S launch day when its Beijing store was pelted with eggs after angry customers were turned away.

Hordes of scalpers have been blamed for the botched event, turning out in mass to take advantage of the pent-up demand for the devices by buying them up in order to sell them on at a profit.

The problems is such in the region that Apple’s Hong Kong store was recently forced to halt walk-in sales and mandate that customers make use of an online ‘reservation’ system. ®

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