Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Optus aims for iPhone rights in Australia

Cellular carrier Optus is trying to negotiate exclusive rights to Apple's iPhone in Australia, according to a report from theage.com.au, and is in talks with Apple over phone volumes as well as marketing terms and business model partnerships. Advanced Info Service (AIS) is Thailand's largest cellular carrier, and is collaborating with Singapore Telecom (SingTel) as well as Optus -- which is a wholly owned subsidiary of SingTel -- to launch the iPhone throughout the region.
The iPhone is scheduled to launch in Australia this year, but the only cellular carrier in Australia to support the EDGE (2.5G) network is not currently known to be in talks with Apple about iPhone distribution there. Optus offers slower 2G network support, which works with Apple's cellular handset, and research director Nick Ingelbrecht of Gartner says the market is quickly moving to adopt the 3G network as a baseline.The first official iPhone release in Australia is said to be the same 2G iPhone that launched in the U.S. last year, which many consumers there could consider old or somewhat outdated when the device hits store shelves."The cachet will be a little diminished by the time it is launched here," Ingelbrecht said.Apple announced its own plans to release a 3G-capable iPhone, and AT&T backed that claim with promises of a newer iPhone by the end of 2008. A newer iPhone would not benefit Australian customers if the cellular networks there cannot offer the faster network service.What's more, pricing could prove vital for iPhone sales in the land down under as it has in the UK -- where the minimum monthly cost to use an iPhone is $100 per month. UK iPhone sales fell 10,000 units short of cellular carrier O2's expectations during the first two months of availability.Further complicating matters, reports broke last week that talks between Apple and China deteriorated after the carrier there refused Apple's terms which included revenue sharing agreements.A similar issue could plague new potential deals in Asia and Australia, according to the report."Given our one baht a minute of airtime, it would not make sense and would be impossible for us to share revenue with Apple," AIS chief marketing officer Sanchai Thiewprasertkul said.

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