BEIJING—Apple Inc is one step closer to beginning sales of iPad 2 tablet computers with cellular network compatibility for the first time in the Chinese mainland, where the consumer-electronics giant is in the midst of an aggressive expansion.
According to China's Telecommunication Equipment Certification Center, a device by Apple with third-generation high-speed wireless data capabilities was issued the network access license needed for the company to begin official sales in China. The device, listed under model number "A1396," is compatible with the 3G standard WCDMA, and would work with the cellular network operated by Apple's local iPhone partner, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd.
China Unicom declined to comment.
Apple already offers the 3G iPad 2 in Hong Kong through its partners, but currently only offers Wi-Fi versions of the device in the Chinese mainland. Still, consumers in China, which according to research firm IDC surpassed the US as the world's largest PC market in the second quarter, have been purchasing 3G tablets through unofficial channels.
Separately, Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu said Sept 6 that the company's first Hong Kong store, set to open this quarter, will be located in the city's central shopping and business district in the International Finance Center's upscale IFC mall, a commercial center and sightseeing spot along the city's waterfront. Wu also said that Apple is planning a new store in Shanghai later this quarter, which will be its biggest store in China. She declined to give more details or to comment on the 3G iPad 2.
Apple currently has four full-service Apple stores in the mainland, which receive the most traffic of any Apple stores in the world. The company otherwise relies on resellers to get its products into the market.
The new stores reflect Apple's confidence in rising demand for its products such as smartphones and tablet computers. Sales in the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan helped boost the company's third-quarter results, newly appointed Chief Executive Tim Cook said in July. China revenue surged six-fold to about $3.8 billion during the three months ended June 25.
"This has been a substantial opportunity for Apple and I firmly believe that we're just scratching the surface right now," Cook said at the time, referring to strong sales in China. "I see an incredible opportunity for Apple there."