Apple iPhones to be Sold Without Wi-Fi

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photo taken from 13 – After drawn out negotiations with China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Apple has conceded and filed an application to officially sell the iPhone without Wi-Fi connectivity in the mainland, according to sources.

The Network Access License will allow the company’s iPhone to enter the Chinese market and run only on Chinese cellular networks. The ministry has not given an official statement explaining the reason behind the Wi-Fi restriction although there has been speculation that Beijing wants to prevent voice over internet protocol (VoIP) applications from undermining government-owned telecom companies.

Currently, iPhones are not officially sold in the mainland. One will need to buy an iPhone from other territories like Hong Kong and then have the unit unblocked for use.

Apple’s iPhone has become one of the world’s best selling mobile phones since it was launched in 2007. One of its selling features was
its wi-fi connectivity that allowed users to access the internet and other special iPhone applications from any place with a hotspot connection.

“Apple was hellbent on having the iPhone be wifi-enabled,” says Wedge Partners analyst Matt Mathison told Businessweek. “The Chinese government has been just as adament that it not be.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 13, 2009
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has not  given an official statement as to why there is a long-standing restriction on Wi-Fi capability on mobile phones. There is speculation that its purpose is to prevent VoIP applications from undermining the business of state-owned telecom companies
. As an alternative to Wi-Fi, the ministry has been encouraging the use of the locally developed WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure or WAPI.

4 thoughts on “Apple iPhones to be Sold Without Wi-Fi

    So you’re saying that not letting cell phones have wifi is part of “Beijing’s bid to maintain government censorship,” rather than an effort to keep people from bypassing cell phone companies and using VOIP to make their calls?

    Given the relative openness of and (again, relative) difficulty of monitoring cellular activity as compared to internet traffic, I seriously doubt that having wifi-enabled mobiles is a big threat to the state censorship machine.

    Suresh says:

    I do agree with John, yes its nothing to do with Telco operators, coz all 3 are cash rich and will be able to provide VOIP as well, actually its a threat and nothing to do with business, rather a matter of Security.

    Well, I purchased iPhone in Nanjing, It do have the Wi-Fi features and its still working in my handset, am in China.

    Derek Liu says:

    Officially, Wi-Fi (the version which is common internationally) is not allowed on any device by chinese governement. The laptop is an unofficial exception, but most mobile devices are required to remove wi-fi feature before it can be sold in China. In China, it’s not surprising to buy a smart phone and find out later it doesn’t have Wi-fi, unless the phone is bought outside of china.
    The official reason is that chinese governement is pushing a wi-fi security protocol which is developed domestically. The government requires all wi-fi chip support this protocol. Unfortunately, this protocol is not welcomed by major wi-fi chip makers and most device makers don’t like the chip that support this protocol. Why? The protocol can only be developed under or in corporation with designated Chinese company (normally have government background or connections), otherwise it cannot be certified. For instance, Intel can’t make their Wi-fi chip to support this protocol without a Chinese company as their partner for the chip. As many other regulations/policies, this one sound absurd to most westerners. Unfortunately, it is true and the government is quite forceful about it.

    Now the real reason behind the official reason. As many people are saying, it is to prevent people to use VOIP so that telcos will not complain about it. I personally believe there is more than that.

    Anyways, if you have to buy a smart phone in China and you require Wi-fi, the only option is to buy the so called “water goods” which means the device is bought outside china and brought into china and reselling. Otherwise, simply buy it from Hong Kong or anywhere outside China.


    Basti says:

    The official reason is indeed the different WiFi protocol. As with 3G, the Chinese government seems to promote their own domestic standards.

    I would recommend anyone who wants an iPhone to buy it in Hong Kong. You can buy it online through the Apple Store without a contract and – in contrast to the re-imports from the U.S. – without any SimLock. Just use any cheap prepaid card and it works.

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