China Unicom’s surprise losses last year were attributed to costs associated with creating its fledgling 3G network. Though China Unicom is the second-largest wireless provider in China, the carrier had just 4.1 million 3G users by the end of February, giving it the fewest 3G subscribers behind China Mobile and China Telecom.
China Unicom hopes to add more than 10 million 3G subscribers this year, and many believe the company’s success hinges upon its ability to expand its 3G network. Playing an integral role in the growth of 3G is the company’s agreement with Apple to carry the iPhone.
Two problems. The first is price when compared to the grey market. The second a lack of Wi-Fi.
Sales are picking up, with 200,000 handsets were purchased as of early January. But 3G adoption at China Unicom has also slowed: the carrier added 920,000 3G subscribers in December, 853,000 in January, and just 470,000 in February.
AppleInsider reported Apple and China Unicom’s fortunes in China could improve with the expected imminent release of an iPhone with Wi-Fi. Apple is also said to have been in talks with rival carrier China Mobile on an agreement to carry the iPhone. China Mobile is the world’s largest wireless carrier, with an estimated 475 million subscribers as of last year.