Jul. 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.