As the Financial Times reported, April 1 was the day that China Mobile started trials of its homegrown 3G wireless technology in eight major cities, with about 60,000 customers.
A more recent Chinese reports suggests that the trials may only involve 20,000 people.
Another Chinese media report says that China Mobile offers three very attractive discount packages to people testing out 3G. For one, the regular voice telephone charges are less than what we 2G folks are paying now, and they get a 50% discount on top of that. At the same time, they are also offering 100-200 yuan off the price of certain 3G phones. One of the packages, for example, is 50 RMB per month, the basic rate for local calls is .4 RMB per minute, free to receive calls, and roaming costs .6 RMB if you call and .4 RMB per minute if you receive calls. Long-distance calls — and this is confusing, or perhaps some typo – 7 cents for 6 seconds? That would mean .7 RMB per minute, we think. As you can tell, these prices are basically the same as the GSM prices.
We’re not quite sure if it’s open to the public yet. Some reports mentioned something about being invited or just getting picked.
But the whole point of 3G is to bring video and web to your mobile devices, so here are some of those prices: Local video-calling will cost .6 RMB per minute if you call, and free if you receive. Roaming: .9 RMB per minute for outgoing calls, .6 RMB per minute for incoming calls. Long-distance within China costs .1 RMB for six seconds.
Some other plans include 28 RMB per month for 150 minutes of call-time, or 58 RMB for 350 minutes of call time, and another for 88 RMB which gets you 600 minutes of call-time, including caller ID, Olympics mobile news, 10 MB of data transfer and cool ring tones!
There are two places in Shanghai where they have 3G exhibition booths; one of them is at 48 Zhangwu Lu near Siping Lu (彰武路48号近四平路) and the other is 998 Renmin Lu (人民路998号). But you can only apply for 3G at the former, and not the latter.
What about 3G enabled phones? There are six you can choose from. For the trials in Shanghai China Mobile provided about 10,000 phones and 3000 wireless cards. The phones came from various manufacturers, with the cheapest being one from Lenovo, costing 1800 RMB, while the most expensive was one from Zhongxing, which cost 3800 RMB. The wireless cards were as folllows: Zhongxing — 700 RMB, Datang — 800 RMB, and TD at … 20 RMB? Huh?
We are pretty excited about taking these cards out for a spin. Back in the day we had flirted with the idea of getting a 2G card, which was based on the CDMAone standards or whatever China’s version of that is, but weren’t convinced that it would work well on Apple computers (they actually do, in fact). However, the promise of 3G’s speed has us revisiting the idea. For those of you that prefer to surf on your iPhone, you might be out of luck — even though 3G iPhones are coming out in May, that is, one month from now – it stands to reason that if they are being developed by Apple and AT&T for release in the USA that they won’t be compliant with China’s homegrown 3G network, TD-SCDMA. A lot of this depends on what happens between Apple and China Mobile – and although the news has waffled between the king is dead and long live the king, Apple Insider points out that might be some reason to believe that there are still hopes for a “legit” iPhone in China, because Apple is not married to any particular business-model, meaning that yeah, they made a killing with the exclusive agreements they have with AT&T in the US, Orange in France, T-Mobile in Germany, O2 in the UK, but hey, they’re flexible and might change the rules of the game if that means that China Mobile will at least agree to play the game.
So you can’t quite rule out the possibility that there will be a Chinese 3G-enabled iPhone sometime in the near future.
Photo from craig1black