Chairman Wang Jianzhou – head of China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator by subscribers – is visiting Taiwan this week to forge partnerships with a number of local firms, including a large 3G handset deal with HTC and an e-book deal with Foxconn. An Associated Press report says an agreement with HTC has been struck today, and will see China Mobile invest CNY47 million (US$6.9 million) in the joint project and expects to develop at least seven models by 2010. Based on the operator’s 3G TD-SCDMA technology, the smartphones will run on China Mobile’s Android-based Open Mobile System platform and fall under the moniker of its ‘OPhones’. The agreement is believed to also cover the development and promotion of TD-LTE terminals. The deal with HTC builds on an existing partnership with Dell and Lenovo for 3G handsets that support its homegrown 3G technology. According to the Financial Times, China Mobile is keen to grow the number of handsets available that support its TD-SCDMA network. While there are more than 7,000 phone models that support second-generation GSM technology in China, as of June there were only 50 TD-SCDMA handset models. Chairman Wang hopes that number will rise to 200 models in the next few months and is turning to Taiwanese manufacturers to fill the gap.
Meanwhile the operator is working with Foxconn to jointly develop and manufacture e-books to be sold in China, with a planned launch date of the first half of next year. China Mobile is also looking at a deal with Taiwan’s top chip designer Mediatek to jointly develop mobile phone chipsets that can run on the operator’s 3G network. Reuters notes that China Mobile’s business in Taiwan comes amid a thaw in the traditionally frosty relations between both nations. However, China Mobile has so far been denied approval by Taiwanese authorities to buy a 12 percent stake in local operator Far EasTone for US$529 million. Both chairman Wang and Far EasTone’s chairman, Douglas Hsu, remain optimistic that the deal will eventually be given the green light.