RIM Readies BlackBerry for China

Canada’s Research in Motion said Wednesday that the company preparing to launch its wireless communications and email service in partnership with China Mobile by mid-2006, selling a new version of its BlackBerry mobile devices utilizing 3G mobile network technology.

In terms of the number of subscribers it supports, China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile network operator, and controls more than two thirds of China’s enormous mobile phone market.

RIM already partners with more than 160 wireless carriers to offer BlackBerry service in more than 60 countries, including nearly a dozen Asian markets. The company has been working with Chinese regulators and negotiating to start up BlackBerry service in China for more than three years. One issue which stymied discussions was encryption technology used by the BlackBerry service; government officials were reportedly concerned they would not be able to access messages sent via the BlackBerry service.

At the same time, the Globe & Mail is reporting that China Unicom Ltd., China’s state-controlled (and second-largest) mobile operator has launched a competing service, unabashedly called “RedBerry,” a push-email service with a name reportedly intended to blend the brand recognition of RIM’s BlackBerry with the red symbol of the state-controlled China Unicom. The RedBerry service uses CDMA-based handsets already marketed by China Unicom, rather than a specialized handheld device; accounts reportedly cost less than $1 a month.

China Mobile also plans to debut its own “PushMail” service using existing mobile phones later this year.