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China Unicom gains 5,000 iPhone subscribers from launch

China Unicom announced Tuesday that its brand new 3G network had already signed up more than a million subscribers, but only 5,000 iPhone customers since the device launched last week.

China's second-largest wireless operator said that it is satisfied with iPhone sales thus far. Unicom Chairman Chang Xiaobing said his company expects to add a million new 3G subscribers each month, and that the iPhone will boost its fourth-quarter revenues, though further details were not provided, according to Reuters.

Chinese investment group CLSA Ltd. has estimated that Apple could sell 460,000 iPhones through China Unicom each year, according to Bloomberg. But that number, if accurate, would be less than the number sold on nation's gray market.

On Friday, the iPhone debuted with a relatively high price of 6,999 yuan, or $1,024, for the high-end iPhone 3GS without a service contract. The same handset can be purchased on the gray market in Hong Kong for about $800.

Following the launch, reports suggested the level of enthusiasm for the iPhone launch was muted. High prices and a lack of sellouts at local stores gave the first indications that the launch may not have been a huge success.

In August, China Unicom and Apple reached a three-year non-exclusive agreement to sell the iPhone. Apple has since turned its attention to China Mobile, the nation's largest wireless carrier, which plans to launch its own 3G network this year.

A sticking point for some potential iPhone buyers has been the handset's lack of Wi-Fi. The capability was left out because the Chinese government temporarily banned it in favor of a rival native offering. The ban, however, was relaxed in May, after manufacturing of the new phone began, and China Unicom hopes to have Wi-Fi in the next line of phones released before the end of the year.