China Mobile Expands 4G Lineup as Samsung to Sony Add Handsets

Dec 31, 2013 12:01 am ET

Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) -- China Mobile Ltd. is selling 13 handsets for its fourth-generation network, up from four devices at the start of service three weeks ago, as market leader Samsung Electronics Co. and rivals vie for early adopters.

Samsung’s Note 3 is available for 5,399 yuan ($892) before subsidy at China Mobile’s store at the carrier’s Beijing headquarters, in addition to the Note 2 that went on sale earlier this month. The Note 3, the most costly device offered on the 4G network, is available free with China Mobile’s most expensive monthly service plan of 488 yuan.

Other vendors taking advantage of the world’s largest carrier’s push into 4G include Sony Corp., Huawei Technologies Co., and the Coolpad brand of China Wireless Technologies Ltd. China Mobile’s flagship store doesn’t have any promotion of the online preordering of Apple Inc.’s iPhone, which began Dec. 25.

While Apple and China Mobile announced a distribution agreement for the iPhone last week, the devices won’t be available in the carrier’s stores until Jan. 17, and pricing and subsidies for the handsets have yet to be published.

Coolpad is offering the widest range of devices for the 4G network, with three handsets. It also features the least costly smartphone, priced at 1,250 yuan before subsidy. It’s available free with monthly service plans as low as 88 yuan.

Samsung, Sony and Huawei all now offer two handsets for China Mobile’s 4G service. Sony added the Xperia Z1 handset for 4,799 yuan to the carrier’s lineup. It’s also available free with commitment to the 488-yuan-a-month service plan.

Samsung led the Chinese smartphone market, the world’s biggest, with 21 percent of shipments during the third quarter, researcher Canalys said in November. It was followed by three Chinese brands: Lenovo Group Ltd.; Coolpad and Huawei, while Apple ranked fifth, according to Canalys.

China Mobile, which had 763 million wireless users at the end of November, received a license Dec. 4 to begin commercial 4G wireless service. As of the end of last month, only 181 million of its users had made the switch to 3G services with faster connections for music and video downloads while most continued to use the slower 2G networks.

--Edmond Lococo. Editors: Robert Fenner, Suresh Seshadri