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Mobile operators eye 3G terminal customization
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2009-06-12 13:28

By Huang Xin

The highlight of the 7th Mobile Phone Exhibition in Tianjin held on May 14, 2009, was without a doubt 3G. However, the most prominent participants were not those phone manufactures, but the 3 major telecommunication carriers who gathered together in the event. Spokesperson from the organizing committee of the exhibition put it this way: "Telecommunication carriers are in the dominant position in the mobile phone industry. Customization of mobile phone has become the trend. It not only can help to promote the application of 3G, but also has become a shortcut for end manufactures of mobile phone to take up shares in the market and open up new prospects".

Besides 3G mobile phone, 3G terminals such as network adapter and netbook are going into the market through customization. For terminals manufacturers, the volume of their shares in the 3G terminals markets depends on whether they are capable of developing different models of 3G terminals rapidly by cooperating with telecommunication carriers. As for the telecommunication carriers, the capability to establish cooperation with competitive terminal manufactures is essential for them to take up advantageous positions in the 3G market.

3G mobile phones, growing in variety

The efforts in customizing 3G mobile phone made by the 3 major carriers are exactly in inverse proportion to their original stockpiles of 3G mobile phones. China Mobile, who owns independent intellectual property rights in China, has developed over 40 models of its TD mobile phone from scratch, which could somewhat be anticipated from its pervasive advertising campaign starting from last year. However, China Unicom, who did not launched new label for its complete business (including 3G) until May 5, 2009, is considered to be in possession of the biggest number of and most mature 3G mobile phone reserve.  "Many users choose mobile phone before they choose the network", a statement by Yang Xiaowei, deputy CEO of China Telecom, is affirmed by the other two carriers. The variety of mobile phone has become an important leverage for the 3 carriers to shape the 3G market.

As early as 2008, Wang Jianzhou, board Chairman of China Mobile, has suggested to raise mobile phone subsidy by 25%, from the average RMB8 billion yuan of previous years to RMB10 billion yuan, and to enlarge the production and sale scale of TD mobile phone through such incentive measures as customized linkage of 2G and 3G terminals, and classified and categorized management of terminals inventory. The "Cooperative R&D Projects of China Mobile's TD Terminal Special Incentive Fund", which has been launched, will provide RMB600 million yuan to support terminals and chips manufacturers, so as to encourage and stimulate global manufacturers in the R&D of TD mobile phone. China Mobile will also learn from Apple, to set up its own Monternet Store to strengthen support for the terminals.

In purchasing CDMA terminals, China Telecom also introduces its "China Telecom CDMA terminal specifications". Currently, the CDMA mobile phones that has been authorized to enter into "customized cell phone repertory" of China Telecom's Skywing mobile phone consists of hundreds of mobile phone models. China Unicom, with its more than 1000 existing WCDMA model phones, will soon launch its 3G terminal customization strategy. It's told that China Unicom will establish sophisticated customization with mobile phone terminal manufacturers on the functions and menus of the phones, so as to promote such 3G business as mobile phone music and mobile phone television.  

3G network adapter: competing for lower price

Different from the competition in 3G mobile phones that is still in its warm-up stage, 3G internet adopters have long been combating head on in the market. In comparison with other 3G terminals, network adapter is currently the cheapest and most convenient terminal in accessing 3G network. According to statistics from China Mobile, the sale of TD digit card, since April 2008 when the TD-SCDMA started pre-commercial service, is 6 times the sale of its TD mobile phones. 

Starting from the May Day festival of this year, Beijing Telecom has been working with to sell Skywing's 3G mobile broadband network adapter online. It will also gradually launch the sale of such products as 3G netbooks and 3G mobile phone on Chine Telecom's marketing 3G network adapter through the internet is doubtless another important step it takes to expand sale channels. It also shows that network adapter is one step earlier before other terminals to enter into public consumption.

Different from 3G mobile phone that attracts the consumers by its variety and multiple functions, 3G network adapter and netbook compete more on their network stability and low rate. Therefore, besides making greater effort on the development of network adapter, the 3 major telecommunication carriers are also struggling to offer the lower price. Presently, 3G network adapter can be obtained free or at RMB1 yuan by depositing fare in advance. The internet access expense is charged by length of time and volume used. There are now such promoted package services as RMB80 yuan/month for 105G of local internet traffic volume or 350M of roving traffic volume within the country, and RMB100 yuan/month for unlimited volume accessed within the local city.

With the help of 3G network adapter, netbook that has been greatly restricted by its internet accessing capability has now become 3G netbook, hitch-hiking a high-speed train to compete in the 3G market preceding to 3G mobile phones. At present, China Mobile has joint hands with 17 domestic and foreign PC makers to launch 29 models of G3 netbooks customized by China Mobile. Previous to that, however, China Telecom has spot tested 17 models of netbooks made by 14 computer makers, engaging brands such as HP, Lenovo, and Samsung into its matrix. On April 28, 3G netbooks embedded with WCDMA network adapter by Lenovo, Samsung, and Acer made their debut in the release conference for WO, a complete services brand of China Unicom. It's reported that these products would officially go on the market on May 17. 
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