China Unicom in Talks to Offer BlackBerry

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China Unicom says it is in talks with Research In Motion about offering BlackBerry devices, making it the third Chinese mobile carrier interested in the popular handsets.

China Telecom, another Chinese carrier, also said this week that it hopes to offer the BlackBerry around May. The statements come as China's carriers compete to pin down deals for popular handsets, a key to attracting more users.

A China Unicom executive revealed the talks with RIM but gave no details during an event this week, a China Unicom spokeswoman said Thursday.

China Unicom late last year started offering Apple's iPhone in a push to attract more users for its 3G services. China Telecom is in talks with Palm to offer its Pre smartphone and the company reportedly said this week that it plans to offer the phone in July.

China Mobile, the world's largest mobile carrier by accounts, sells the Dell Mini 3i smartphone in China, and says it is also in talks with Apple on offering the iPhone.

China Mobile has sold the BlackBerry in China since 2006, but only said in recent months that it would start selling the devices to consumers in addition to businesses. RIM is working on a version of the BlackBerry that supports China Mobile's 3G standard, which was developed largely in China and has strong government backing.

No one at RIM was immediately able to comment.

A Chinese regulator last month gave a network access license to a version of the BlackBerry 8310, according to a list on the Web site of China's IT ministry. The license means that version of the phone can be sold in China, but it is unclear where it will be distributed.

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