Apple Negotiating Deal With Second Chinese Cell Carrier

No one said Apple’s (s aapl) partnership with China Unicom is exclusive, right? It’s an open relationship. Y’know how it is, dinner dates, the cinema, maybe even occasionally meeting the parents. But it’s totally cool for them both to see other people, OK?

And that’s precisely what’s happening. Back in July, I reported here that China Unicom had secured the deal to supply to the iPhone in China. Just two weeks ago other sites were reporting the same thing and now, according to the Wall Street Journal, rival carrier China Mobile appears to be getting in on the action, too.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum, China Mobile’s chairman Wang Jianzhou said that Apple’s deal with competitor China Unicom was “…absolutely not exclusive.”

“We are still in talks,” added Mr Wang, “so I can’t say anything else.”

China Mobile was, for a time, the favorite for securing a deal to offer the iPhone in China but apparently negotiations hit a roadblock over Apple’s business model which, at that time, was based around revenue-sharing. In November 2007, speaking at the GSM Association’s Mobile Asia Congress in Macau, Mr Wang told attendees that he did not like the new business models emerging in the mobile phone industry — specifically, device manufacturers seeking to share revenues with cellular network operators. Instead, he asserted, “We still think we can maintain the operator-centric model because we have the customers, the end users.”

They certainly do. China Mobile is the country’s largest cell network operator with over 420 million subscribers. That’s more than the entire population of the United States.

This move marks the first time since the launch of the iPhone in 2007 that Apple has not expressly fostered an exclusive arrangement with a single carrier in a country, but is instead pursuing arrangements with multiple carriers.