China Telecom in Talks to Offer Palm Pre

China Telecom is in talks with Palm about offering the Pre smartphone in China, intensifying the race between Chinese carriers to win 3G users by offering attractive handsets.

China Telecom is also talking with Palm about offering other handsets and is still in talks with Research In Motion (RIM) about offering a version of the BlackBerry, an investor relations representative said Friday.

The move adds to efforts by China Telecom and its rivals to offer fashionable 3G handsets from Western companies. Local carrier China Unicom said Friday it had reached a 3-year deal with Apple to offer the iPhone in China, and China Mobile, the world's largest carrier by subscribers, appears set to launch a Dell smartphone. A device called the Dell mini3i is listed beside handsets supported by China Mobile's new application download store.

China Telecom knows it needs good handsets to attract more 3G users, the representative said. Nokia also plans to launch a 3G handset with China Telecom this year, and Motorola may launch two, she said.

China's carriers are also moving toward offering low-priced handsets to attract 3G subscribers. China Telecom and its distributors have ordered 4 million 3G phones from handset makers to sell in China, and most will be priced between 500 yuan (US$73) and 1,000 yuan, the company representative said.

The phones will have low prices because 3G services are popular among college students and other young people with low income, she said.

The chairman of China Mobile said this week that smartphone sales would greatly increase if their prices can fall below 1,000 yuan.

The China Telecom representative declined to give further details on the company's talks with Palm and RIM.

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