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(Paul Sakuma)
(Paul Sakuma)

RIM ramps up China services Add to ...

Research In Motion , maker of BlackBerry e-mail devices, said it is preparing to launch an applications store and consumer Internet services in China, as part of a big push into the world's top mobile market.

The upcoming Chinese App World applications store would follow RIM's May launch of BlackBerry service in China through China Telecom, one of China's three major carriers, and as RIM develops service for the homegrown third-generation (3G) mobile standard used by leading Chinese carrier, China Mobile.

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The applications store and consumer Internet service were just two of the initiatives RIM was undertaking to tap into China's 700 million-plus subscriber mobile market, the world's largest, said Greg Shea, head of RIM in China.

In other initiatives, RIM is also working with top Chinese Internet content providers and site operators, including search leader Baidu, online game leader Tencent and online commerce leader Alibaba Group, to create versions of their popular sites to work on BlackBerrys.

"We will soon be launching the Internet service" for consumers, Mr. Shea said. "We will also launch an App World China - that will be soon as well. We think some time after we put in Internet service and these other initiatives, we'll see that magic moment when we see that acceleration" in sign-up of new customers.

Before its recent China Telecom tie-up, RIM offered BlackBerry services mostly to corporate customers in China through China Mobile, the world's largest carrier by subscribers.

But many observers said China Mobile was slow to promote the service, in part because RIM has no BlackBerry models compatible with TD-SCDMA, the homegrown 3G wireless standard that China Mobile is using for its high-speed services.

China Mobile said earlier this year that RIM had agreed to make BlackBerrys based on TD-SCDMA but gave no details. Mr. Shea said that effort was ongoing, but declined to give specific dates for the launch of new TD-SCDMA models.

"It's in active development," he said. "You're going to see that product come to market, and more after that."

China Mobile's current service with RIM is over its older 2G network, based on widely used GSM technology.

China Telecom has high hopes for its BlackBerry service, which it officially launched in May after signing an agreement with RIM earlier in the year.

China Telecom, which entered the wireless space less than two years ago following a broad industry restructuring, said it would initially offer BlackBerry services over its own 3G network, based on CDMA 2000 technology, in 16 Chinese provinces.

Mr. Shea said only one BlackBerry model was available for China Telecom services, but more would come soon.

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