Mobile email war heats up in China

28 Jun 2006

The race for push email service in China is on, with the country's two major mobile carriers, China Mobile and China Unicom, unveiling their own services to tap the country's nascent business wireless email market.

While China Mobile has partnered with Canada's Research In Motion to bring the popular BlackBerry service to tap high-end multinational corporate customers, rival China Unicom has also come up with a cdma2000 1x-based push email service, called 'Uni Push Mail', developed by a startup called Facio Software, for its corporate customers and professional users. The Uni Push Mail service, which is also known as 'Redberry', was introduced by Unicom just a month ahead of the launch of the BlackBerry.

Meanwhile, China Mobile and RIM are initially focusing on are on supporting multinational corporations with operations in China and the operator is now providing SIM cards to support BlackBerry service. Availability of BlackBerry wireless handhelds and BlackBerry Enterprise servers will be announced at a later date, according to Norm Lo, VP of RIM Asia Pacific.

Kevin Lee, analyst of Ovum Asia Pacific, says the Redberry service would bring a certain level of competition to the BlackBerry, as China Unicom has been done quite well in high-end segment. But he believes that the strategy to initially targeting BlackBerry roaming users will make an easy headway for the adoption of the service in China.

'BlackBerry is well known to many executives at MNCs in China and many of them are already using BlackBerry services,' he says, adding that the advantage on security would also help BlackBerry to gain wider adoption among multinationals in China.

Hardy Song, senior analyst at Beijing-based Norson Telecom Consulting, argues that China Mobile is in a better position than Unicom in the corporate market due to its larger enterprise subscriber base and better sales and marketing strategies, despite Redberry having an early-mover advantage.

He says the real competition for BlackBerry adoption will come more from China Mobile's other push email solution, which was launched together with the BlackBerry last month.

He says China Mobile earlier launched its 'non-BlackBerry' push email solution on its Moternet platform, but it wasn't so successful. 'If China Mobile fails to clearly differentiate the customer segments for these two services, it will have a negative impact on BlackBerry adoption.'

Lo at RIM, however, points out that 'China Mobile views BlackBerry as its key higher-end enterprise email and data offering that is trusted by global corporations, while its domestic email solution is offered as a basic service for the lower-end segment.'

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