RIM Sets BlackBerry China Entry

Expect to see BlackBerrys distributed in China by Jan 1.

Research In Motion expects to begin distributing its popular BlackBerry handheld devices in China by the end of the year under a partnership with Alcatel-Lucent. The first smart phone offered to Chinese enterprise customers will be the 8700.

Alcatel-Lucent achieved certification of the 8700 model for the Chinese market through a partnership with TCL Communications, a major mobile device manufacturer in China that holds the Alcatel brand for mobile handsets. RIM and TCL are showing the BlackBerry smart phones at the PT Expo Comm China show in Beijing this week.

"This agreement strengthens the distribution frame agreement that Alcatel-Lucent and RIM signed last year covering Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia and now extends to China," Frederic Rose, president of Alcatel Shanghai Bell and president of Alcatel-Lucents Asia Pacific activities, said in a statement.

Last May, RIM, of Waterloo, Ontario, signed a deal with China Mobile Communications to offer RIMs e-mail service, but Chinese regulators held up approval until January of this year. The delay meant BlackBerry users had to bring in handsets from outside China.

"Following our launch of the BlackBerry service with China Mobile, we are very pleased to now enter this smart phone distribution agreement with Alcatel-Lucent and Alcatel Shanghai Bell," RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said in a statement.

"We look forward to building on the early interest and momentum we are experiencing in China with both multinational and domestic corporations."

RIMs distribution deal with Alcatel-Lucent prompted Citigroup analyst Jim Suva to up his year-end target price for RIM to $140 a share from his previous estimate of $117. In an investment note, Suva said the 8700 is already in mass production, which will reduce development and research time to ready the device for the Chinese market.

China has more than 500 million mobile subscribers.


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