China Mobile boss Wang Jianzhou says his company is in talks with Apple (AAPL) to offer the iPhone in China. This would be a good deal for both sides: China Mobile (CHL) beats smaller rival China Unicom (CHU) to the world’s hottest phone, and Apple gets its phones distributed by the world’s biggest wireless carrier.
At the end of September, China Mobile had about 350 million subscribers — more than 5 times the size of AT&T, Apple’s U.S. carrier partner — and almost 1.5 times the size of the entire U.S. wireless industry. With another 155 million subscribers on China Unicom, Apple’s market opportunity in China is twice as big as it is in the U.S…
One hurdle: according to IDG news service, Wang doesn’t like Steve Jobs’ Apple-friendly revenue sharing deals, where carriers pay Apple (AAPL) a hefty sum each month for each iPhone subscriber. AT&T (T) could be paying Apple as much as $18 per subscriber, per month for the privilege of being the exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier — $432 over a two-year contract and a huge profit centre for Apple.
“We still think we can maintain the operator-centric model because we have the customers, the end users,” Wang said at a mobile conference in Macau. Getting this deal done will take some negotiating, but it should happen sooner than later: Apple needs China a lot more than China needs Apple.
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