BEIJING - China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd, the second-biggest telecom carrier in China, said it will introduce Apple Inc's iPhone 4S to the Chinese mainland as early as the end of December and no later than Jan 23, the date of the Chinese New Year, said a company official.
To that end, China Unicom has obtained from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology a network access certificate, which is required to sell the iPhone 4S on the mainland, said Yu Yingtao, general manager of China Unicom's sales and marketing department.
Even so, the carrier will have to wait a while before it begins selling the devices, Yu said, declining to elaborate.
"I am sure the device will hit the Chinese market before the Spring Festival," Yu said. "We are trying to release it before Jan 1."
China Unicom is the sole telecom carrier in China that is allowed to sell iPhones to customers on contract. Two of the company's domestic rivals, China Mobile Ltd and China Telecom Corp Ltd, have shown an eagerness to offer iPhones themselves.
Yu said China Unicom will concentrate next year on selling mid-priced smartphones, costing from 1,000 yuan ($157) to 2,000 yuan. He said he believes that 20 percent of the smartphones sold in China fall into that category.
"We have achieved success in selling entry-level, 1,000-yuan smartphones in China this year," Yu said. "Sales of mid-end smartphones are what we should try to bolster in 2012."
The company cooperated with ZTE Corp, a provider of telecommunications equipment, to introduce a mid-end smartphone, the Skate V960, on Monday.
He Shiyou, executive vice-president of ZTE, said ZTE puts much hope in smartphones, especially mid- and high-end smartphones. He said the company is planning to shift away from cheap phones and cheap telecommunications equipment
"In the third quarter, China jumped ahead of the United States to become the biggest smartphone market in the world," He said. "That created a big business opportunity for companies like ZTE."
ZTE identified four markets where it will concentrate its efforts to sell such devices - China, Europe, North America and Brazil. He said the company saw its sales increase the fastest in China this year.
Since the Blade V880s series, the entry level smartphones produced by ZTE, was introduced in April, more than 3 million of them have been shipped.
Earlier this year, ZTE said it expects to ship 12 million smartphones in 2011.
"ZTE hit that target in the past 11 months, and the whole year's shipment of smartphones may far exceed our previous expectations," said He.
In 2012, ZTE hopes to ship twice the number of smartphones that it did this year, he added.