While there’s still some contention over the iPhone’s status in the land of the rising sun, China Mobile is slated to bust out the BlackBerry 8700 before the end of the quarter. Although it’s a bit tempting to brag about BlackBerry beating the iPhone into the country, but let’s hold off to see if China Mobile actually called off talks, or if they’ve actually started them. There might have been a few delays getting the BlackBerry in before Christmas, but maybe all the waiting has been building up some excitement over there…?
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Mainland China was supposed to get a bunch of BlackBerry 8700s by the end of December, but it’s still yet to happen. It’s taken long enough for RIM to crack the tough nut of the Chinese market, so what’s a bit longer, eh? While confident that everything is going smoothly now that they’re inside the borders, the ball is still in the carrier’s court to deliver.
“You should ask China Mobile about the timeline,” [Charles] Liu, RIM’s top executive in China, told Reuters. “From my perspective, everything is according to plan.”
10,000 BlackBerry 8700s are en route to China, following the October announcement. Alcatel’s involvement has earned it branding status on the BlackBerry, which will be carried exclusively by China Mobile for about RMB 3450. Rumors are floating that competing Gome Mobile might be dealing with Alcatel for some 8700s as well, but officials have denied the possibility so far. Well, a limited release is better than no release, eh?
A recent story went over some of the challenges RIM faces in the Chinese market, primarily China Unicom’s nefarious RedBerry. The article states that SIM cards and data plans are the only things available for BlackBerry, as previously reported. Despite this, we have it on good word that the 8700 and 7290 are, in fact, sold by China Mobile, but how well they’re doing against the significantly cheaper RedBerry remains to be seen.
“Chinese businessmen are not that international yet, so they are not as familiar yet with the Blackberry and prefer local gadgets,” said Rock Yang, principal handsets analyst at Beijing-based BDA. “Price will be the deciding factor in determining how the BlackBerry expands in China,” he added.
By efficiently handling call silence, China Mobile has doubled the capacity of their base transceiver stations in Inner Mongolia with a handy little device called the Vmux-400. “So what?” you ask? Well, costs didn’t go up as a result of the upgrade. Doubling your efficiency at no effective cost is no mean feat. On top of providing better service to remote villages, the hardware also acts as a solid stepping-stone to 3G advances down the line.
“The Vmux-400 also provides a valuable head start for mobile operators in their migration to 3G, since optimization enables operators to free up leased lines used for 2G/2.5G traffic and apply them to their 3G networks,” [Thomas Q. Lu, President of RAD China] explains. “In this way, they can avoid the time delay and costs associated with installing additional leased lines,” he adds.
After eight years of paperwork, BlackBerry has finally gotten the go-ahead to launch in China. There’s already 5,000 preorders for the BlackBerry 8700 that’s planned to drop before the end of the month on China Mobile. The price point is an issue for the Chinese, who might be used to paying a hell of a lot less for mobile services than we are. As for language, hopefully RIM will be able build off established support strategies, and not tool around with the issue like they did in Japan.