China Gets a Taste of BlackBerry

The wireless communications service and device provider will make its initial foray into China in partnership with carrier China Mobile.

Research In Motion is launching its BlackBerry products in China via a new deal it signed with China Mobile Communications, its first effort to establish its products in the massive nation.

The wireless communications device and services vendor said that working with China Mobile, one of the countrys leading mobile carriers, it will first target multinational corporations with operations in the region.

Soon thereafter, the company said that China Mobile will begin offering BlackBerry wireless e-mail services nationwide and provide SIM (subscriber identity module) cards to help promote use of RIMs applications.

Availability of the firms handhelds and BlackBerry Enterprise Server software will be announced at a later date, the partners said. RIM reported that China Mobiles GPRS (general packet radio service) data network will allow customers to provide wireless access to voice, e-mail, contact management and Internet applications.

China Mobile currently counts just under 130 million customers, an impressive number of users by any estimation when it is compared to the roughly 56 million users held by Cingular Wireless, the largest mobile carrier in the United States.

"Millions of mobile professionals around the world have recognized the unique security, manageability, efficiency and reliability of the BlackBerry architecture," Jim Balsillie, CEO of RIM, said in a statement.

"The collaboration of China Mobile and RIM will extend the reach of BlackBerry to a large and important market."

In addition to its usual cast of rivals—which expanded further this week when Hewlett-Packard announced new wireless e-mail and business applications services and related wireless devices—RIM also faces the prospect of fighting against some Chinese copycats already mirroring its work.

In one case, a firm known as Facio Software has introduced a mobile e-mail service known as RedBerry, a clear takeoff on the firms BlackBerry branding that would likely arouse litigation from the firm in other regions.

More traditional rivals such as Nokia have also made a concerted effort to gain a foothold in China before RIM arrived.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about the increasing competition facing RIM.

Nokia recently announced plans to expand its research and development efforts in the countrys Sichaun region where it is working on IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) communications applications, development of carrier platform middleware and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) gateways for mobile browsing.

Another competitor, Motorola, has also made sizeable research and development investments in the nation this year, handing over money to Shanghai NewMargin Venture Capital Enterprise, Shenzhen Shenxun Information Technology Development and Legend Silicon to further entrench itself in the Chinese market.

Motorola identifies itself as the largest foreign investor in Chinas electronics industry with more than 9,000 employees and investments in the region totaling over $3.6 billion.

The mobile communications market in China continues to show signs of strong growth, with industry players in the region reporting rising subscriber numbers and positive earnings.

In 2005 alone, China Mobile claims it added 42.36 million new subscribers, up 11 percent from the 38.17 million users it added in 2004, and saw its profits rise to just over $65 billion.

In March, China Mobile reported strong annual earnings. For 2005, the company recorded a 28 percent increase in profits, which swelled to just over $6.65 billion.