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AsiaWatch: Unicom Preps iPhone Launch

Ray Le Maistre

China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU) has had a busy start to the week with news of its impending iPhone launch and a share buyback, while there's 3G and revenue projection news from Thailand, expectations of lower mobile prices in South Korea, and a significant IPTV deal in Taiwan.

  • Having landed the deal to sell Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iconic device in China, Unicom today announced that the 3G iPhone will go on sale from October 1 (this Thursday) for 5,000 Yuan Renminbi (US$732.28), with service package prices ranging from RMB126 ($18.45) to RMB886 ($129.71), and handset subsidies ranging from RMB893 ($130.76) to RMB4,253 ($622.64). (See iPhone Heads to China.)

    The operator is also set to officially launch its 3G service Thursday, having spent most of this year rolling out its WCDMA network and connecting customers (430,000 3G handset users and 100,000 data card subscribers) to its trial network. (See Unicom Enters Third Phase and China Unicom Plans Massive Capex Hike.)

    Unicom, which recently strengthened its ties with Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), also announced today that it is buying back the near 900 million shares (about 3.8 percent of Unicom's stock) currently owned by Korea's SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) for about 10 billion Hong Kong dollars ($1.29 billion). (See China Unicom, Telefónica Strengthen Ties.)

  • In Thailand, True Corp. plc , which offers fixed and mobile services, is feeling the pinch from the economic downturn, and expects its full year revenues to increase by less than 5 percent, reports Reuters.

    Meanwhile, the country's National Telecommunications Commission has unveiled plans to hold an auction of 3G spectrum in December, according to Reuters, but it's clear that the process faces opposition, as this Bangkok Post story reveals.

  • South Korea's three mobile operators -- SK Telecom, KT Corp. , and LG Telecom -- are to lower their tariffs as part of a government initiative to cut costs for households, Reuters reports.

  • Telco TV systems and services firm Broadband Network Systems Ltd. (BNS) has won a five-year deal with in-building broadband service provider Max Media to provide IPTV services to multi-tenant residential buildings, commercial offices, and hotels in Taiwan. The vendor estimates the deal will be worth US$34 million over the five-year duration. BNS is already active in Taiwan, having landed a deal with national operator Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. (NYSE: CHT) to develop an interactive shopping channel for the carrier's IPTV service. (See BNS, Chunghwa Team Up and BNS's IPTV App Adds a Legacy Touch.)

    Find out more about developments in the Asia/Pacific IPTV market at TelcoTV Asia, a two-day event to be staged in Shanghai, October 13 and 14.

    — Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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