Although no deal has been announced, China Unicom posted ads for Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone – including specifications for the model now on sale in nearly 80 countries – on an official China Unicom website.
The move follows reports last week of a breakthrough in the long running negotiations that have pitted China Unicom against its rival, China Mobile — the world’s largest cell phone carrier — for exclusive rights to sell the iPhone in China.
NetworkWorld, which spotted the ads, points out that the information appeared only on the site of Unicom’s Shanghai branch, and did not whether the phone would be offered in China.
Dan Butterfield, who has been following the negotiations on his iPhonAsia blog, notes that China Unicom’s regional units tend to be somewhat independent. But posting specs before a formal announcement is made, he says, could cause someone to get their wrist slapped.
“China Unicom wants to entice existing iPhone 3G owners (at least 500,000 in China) to come on board when their new WCDMA 3G network is up and running in May in Shanghai,” Butterfield writes in a post on Investor Village’s AAPL Sanity board (subscription required). “This may be part of the motive for posting current iPhone 3G info and specs. Yet to post iPhone specs on an official Unicom website prior to a deal announcement is a surprise to me … I suspect China Unicom’s regional Shanghai branch may be getting ahead of themselves.”