It is claimed by an analyst — never a sure and certain source of the future truth — called Wedge Partners that Apple has applied for a license to use the iPhone on wireless networks in China. This should be one of the last remaining regulatory issues to be solved before officially launching the iPhone in Asia’s largest mobile market.
There are still other issues for Apple to address with whatever carrier partner it chooses, but it could mean a launch as soon as the beginning of next year.
(Note we are talking legal iPhones; there are at least a million iPhones in use in China already but they are not approved by Apple.)
It is said that the application follows Apple being granted a five-year approval for the iPhone as wireless transmitting equipment early last month. That approval is useless, according to China Wireless News, without a network access license (or mobile phone network testing license — it’s not clear if they refer to the same thing), because both are required for an official OK from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Wedge Partners analyst Matt Mathison noted that the device described in the application appears to use GSM, as opposed to the TD-SCDMA standard that is more common in China. Further, it appears that the iPhone also will not include WiFi capabilities — it was apparently a major stumbling block, as Chinese regulations forbid cell phones with WiFi capabilities.
Matt Mathison said, "Apple was hellbent on having the iPhone be WiFi-enabled. The Chinese government has been just as adamant that it not be."
Apple still needs to strike a deal with a Chinese carrier. If the iPhone will indeed use GSM (as all other iPhones do), then it seems even more likely that Apple will be partnering with China Unicom, which recently launched a GSM-based 3G network. None of this, you understand, is from official sources. Apple is as close-mouthed as a Trappist monk and the Chinese government is not run by blabber-mouths. So all of it must be taken with a pinch of salt although it is London to a brick that something is happening. The question is what.
China Unicom has been reportedly asking Apple for a different default set of applications "that Chinese users are more familiar with." Also, it appears that another Chinese company may have a trademark on the word "i-phone" in connection with mobile handsets, which could result in a legal headache for Apple.
Ars Technica runs the whole of this conjecture and adds that Apple has been eyeing the burgeoning — and potentially huge — Chinese market for its iPhone for some time. Of that, at least, we can be certain.