China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile phone operator, is in talks with Apple about offering the iPhone to its customers, Chairman Xi Guohua told a shareholders' meeting in Hong Kong yesterday.
Among the mainland's three telecoms carrier giants, China Mobile is the only operator that does not yet offer the popular handset, which is regarded as essential to accumulating high-end users. 'Both China Mobile and Apple have the will to strengthen co-operation,' said Xi (pictured), though he could not predict if the two sides would reach an agreement this year. 'When there is more specific news we will disclose it,' he said.
Xi took over the chairmanship of the mainland telecoms giant after his predecessor Wang Jianzhou retired in March.
Shareholders were told China Mobile would expand the trial service of its fourth-generation wireless network to up to 10 mainland cities this year from six last year. 'Currently we have more than 20,000 4G base stations and if the results of the trial are satisfactory, I am confident the number of 4G base stations will hit more than 200,000 in the next year,' said chief executive officer Li Yue.
The 4G network has not yet been formally approved for commercial application by the authorities.
China Mobile had 667.2 million mobile phone subscribers at the end of March, including 59.6 million 3G subscribers, the company said last month. Average revenue per user (Arpu) has been falling over the past couple of years, as newly-added users are mostly in rural areas with weaker consumption power.
In the first quarter, monthly Arpu was 65 yuan (HK$80), 3 per cent lower than a year earlier.
Subscribers to 3G networks are important to help the carrier boost Arpu levels, because they use their mobile devices more to access the internet and shop online.
China mobile shares ended at HK$84.45 yesterday, up 9.5 per cent year-to-date, compared with a year-to-date rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index of 8.5 per cent.