China Telecom iPhone 4S Out by March 9

China Telecom, the country’s third largest mobile provider, will start selling the iPhone 4S this March, opening for pre-orders on March 2, and releasing the smartphones by March 9.

One of the first customers who queued up to purchase a new smartphone iPhone 4S show his new phone at an Apple Store Friday Jan. 13, 2012 in Shanghai, China. China Telecom will be the second network to carry the iPhone 4S when it launches the smartphone in March. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Starting March, China Telecom will offer the iPhone 4S for free under various contracts. Users can get a 16 GB iPhone 4S free under the389 yuan monthly (US$ 62) plan with a two-year contract. Extending the lock-in period to three years reduces the plan to 289 yuan (US$ 45) monthly.

According to China Telecom, the company will be bolstering its marketing campaigns, with “appropriate increase in marketing initiatives,” to drive iPhone 4S sales.

“Staggering” Demand

Apple underestimated the demand for the fifth-generation iPhone when it first launched in China. Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted the company could have done better in its iPhone 4S launch. “We thought we were betting bold … We didn’t bet high enough,” he said in a January 24 conference call with the media.

Apple launched the iPhone 4S with China Unicom in January, and has been offering the iPhone with the nation’s second-largest carrier since 2009. China Telecom was earlier expected to launch the iPhone 4S this month, although the launch had been postponed to March.

China has almost 1 billion mobile subscribers, although most of these are still using feature-phones with no mobile broadband support. Still, China Unicom has 43 million 3G subscribers, while China Telecom has 38.7 million as of end January.

At this point, only China Mobile, the country’s — and the world’s — biggest network by subscriber count, does not carry the iPhone. This is mostly due to the fact that the network uses a different 3G network standard, TD-SCDMA.

Via TFTS and Bloomberg