The MIIT website posted TD-LTE network access licenses for iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C this morning. This indicates China Mobile will very likely sell such iPhones in near future. The potential launch of iPhone will help CM retain high-end users, and improve its LTE branding.
iPhone 5C / 5S compatible for 5 Mobile Network Modes
iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C each has two models that received TD-LTE network access licenses in China, supporting either three modes (TD-LTE/ TD-SCDMA / GSM) or five modes (plus FD-LTE and WCDMA). This could indicate technical issues for five-mode TD-LTE smartphone, and CM may initially only sell three-mode iPhones (with global data roaming issue) Currently the radio frequency module of a five-mode TD-LTE smartphone is not mature, making such phones thicker and not that stable than normal phones. We expect such issue can be addressed after early 2014.
China Unicom still has relative network advantage with HSPA+ before CM has nationwide LTE coverage, while China Telecom may not have effective short term solution to compete with China Mobile’s LTE.
Uncertainty over iPhone 5C /5S Launch Date in China
Other than LTE licensing, other issues that may delay CM’s iPhone launch time may include TD-LTE network coverage, handset subsidy budget control and TD-LTE iPhone’s voice compatibility with GSM network. TD-LTE iPhone indicates progress in TD-LTE value chain and is a long-term positive to CM. However it is still uncertain whether the demand for CM iPhone 5S can maintain strong after a possible initial ramp.