NEW YORK – Nokia and China Mobile announced Wednesday (Dec. 5) the launch of Nokia’s Lumia 920T (shown below), the first TD-SCDMA Windows phone in China.
As important as “the first TD-SCDMA Windows phone in China” sounds, it’s far from clear if the deal could provide a big enough opportunity for Nokia to begin recovering from a long, agonizing decline.
The Finnish mobile phone maker is still coping with a chronic cash-flow problem, On Tuesday, it announced a deal to sell and lease back its head office building outside Helsinki for 170 million euros ($222 million).
There’s no underestimating Nokia’s deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier that operates China’s TD-SCDMA network with nearly 700 million subscribers and 3G penetration of only about 11 percent. There’s a lot of room there to grow.
Indeed, more than 200 million China Mobile users reportedly replace their handsets each year.
According to Leo Li, CEO at Spreadtrum Communications, a leading China chip vendor, the TD-SCDMA market in 2011 approached 50 million units. In 2012, Li expects it to reach 85 million, growing to 140 million units in 2013.
For now, the deal with China Mobile gives Nokia a leg up on Apple.
A partnership with China Mobile is something Apple doesn’t have, and would probably love to have for future growth. Apple currently sells iPhones only through China Unicom (230 million subscribers) and China Telecom (150 million subscribers).
Apple might just steal Nokia’s thunder in China on Dec. 14. That’s when the first shipment of iPhone 5s is scheduled to reach seven Apple stores in China – although they’ll only be available through China Unicom and China Telecom. The word so far on why there is no partnership between Apple and China Mobile is that the companies have been unable to agree on subsidies for the cellular operator.