China Unicom gains 5,000 iPhone subscribers from launch

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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.

 

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