Yesterday was no fluke. China Unicom, with its 150 million subscribers (much more than AT&T), has confirmed that it will be selling the Apple iPhone beginning on May 17th, 2009 to China’s 1.3+ billion potential customers. 

With a likely iPhone 3.0 coming out this summer and 3G roll outs just being tested in 55 Chinese cities, it isn’t clear how many of these devices will get swooped up right away and how many customers will wait (for the models their compatriots are building!).

China Unicom confirmed Wednesday that it would start to sell Apple’s iPhone in China on May 17.

China Unicom will see both chances and challenges if introducing iPhone to China, according to Gui Kai, an analyst from Guosen Securities.

By introducing iPhone, it will attract more clients, expand its market share and improve its business performance in a short term.

However, it might also have to give away large revenue share.

Wan Jinjin, an analyst from UBS Securities, said earlier in a report that China Unicom might have to shoulder a heavy burden, since iPhone is likely to be highly subsidized. Besides, it could limit the business expansion by setting a threshold of average revenue per user (ARPU) for its iPhone users.

According to Yi Difei, a China Unicom official in charge of news release, the company will start trial operation of commercial 3G business in 55 cities across the country on the same day. The concrete time for official operation depends on results of the trial operation.

Users need not to worry about shortage of terminals, since there are plenty of WCDMA phones on the market at present.

An insider from China Unicom said that all the WCDMA phones sold in China have been tested before and are qualified to be used for 3G services.

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