Microsoft is set to get a significant boost in China after the country’s largest mobile operator, China Mobile, confirmed that it is all set to release a Windows Phone 7 device that is compatible with its 3G network, a feat that the iPhone is yet to achieve.
Last year, Nokia triumphantly declared a partnership with China Mobile — which has more than 650 million subscribers, more than any other operator on the planet — and the telco has now acknowledged the deal for the first time.
Pan Zhiyong, general manager of China Mobile’s Guangzhou branch, recently revealed that it will release a Windows Phone 7 device imminently. Though he declined to reveal exactly which phone it will carry, it will support the China Mobile 3G (TD-SCDMA) network, according to a Marbridge Consulting report.
The device itself could be one of a number, as localized Windows Phone 7 ‘Tango’ phones are said to be coming to China from ZTE, Nokia, LG and HTC. The latter firm beat its rivals to the punch, last week, when it introduced pre-orders for the Triumph, which became the first Windows 7.6 device. to go on sale in China.
The addition of China Mobile will massively increase the reach of Microsoft’s mobile platform, and which ever manufacturer whose device is sold, as the operator dominates the domestic telecom market. The fact that the phone will support 3G is a further significant boon, as China Mobile’s unique 3G standard makes it incompatible with a number of rival devices, most notably the iPhone.
Despite that, and the fact that it is the only Chinese telco not offering Apple’s device, China Mobile has racked up an impressive 15 million iPhone users, all of whom are stuck using its 2G service as Apple is yet to release a TC-SCDMA compliant handset. While it is arguably not as glamorous as the iPhone, the prospect of owning a 3G Windows Phone 7 device may appeal to many of China Mobile’s loyal subscribers, while they continue to wait on a 3G-compatible iPhone.
China Mobile has said that Apple has “promised” to deliver a 3G device to it this year, and the operator’s recent commitment to 4G (using the worldwide TD-LTE standard, which it began testing with Clearwire in January) is likely to ensure it will support future Apple devices. However, the LTE service will not be available until 2013 and it remains to be seen whether, in the meantime, a TD-SCDMA iPhone will be forthcoming in June, as the operator has claimed.
A welcome boost for Nokia?
China Mobile’s Windows Phone 7 device is strongly tipped to be one of Nokia’s Lumia series of smartphones, which would be an important gain for the Finnish telecom firm if true.
Nokia is refocusing on China after suffering a difficult time in the country of late. The company’s most recent filing, made last week, disclosed a 20 percent drop in sales in China over the last year, as Tech In Asia reports. That decline is in stark contrast to Apple, which has seen its profile and the popularity of its devices surge, with CEO Tim Cook recognising China as an important market for the company.
Nokia is working to rectify its downward spiral and it has already inked WP7 deals with China Telecom and China Mobile, while it announced plans to relocate its Asia headquarters from Singapore to China. Though the latter move was cited as a cost-cutting exercise, it will help the company focus on delivering to China’s booming mobile market, which is now the world’s largest after its shipments passed those of the US last year.
We’ve contact China Mobile and Microsoft to try to ascertain further details of the upcoming launch. We’ll add any updates that we are given to this post.