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Over the weekend we had China Unicom announce their femtocell rollout known as 3G Inn. The service has been launched in ten provinces in Northern China according to a Chinese Reuters report (translated). Although the details of the rollout, pricing and vendors is sketchy at the moment - it definitely is welcome news for the femtocell market. Its no secret that femtocell volumes in 2009 have been sluggish with some carriers known to have delayed shipments until 2010.

There are suggestions that China Unicom is looking at a massive rollout, most of which will come in the second phase, probably towards end of 2010 or 2011. As far as ABIs own forecast is concerned it fits well with our expectations, at least on the first phase of rollouts. However, there could be a significant uptick from the second phase of shipments, if they do indeed meet expected volume levels.

The interesting bit is that China Unicom recently announced their iPhone launch. Was this meant to be timed with their femtocell launch? The fact that the initial shipments of the iPhone will not carry WiFi or even the Chinese equivalent WAPI, bodes well for their 3G Inn service.

On the whole it has should pick up sagging spirits in the femtocell market. However, one thing that will definitely be different compared to other femtocell rollouts, we wont be able catch twitter updates from enthusiastic 3G Inn subscribers, courtesy the great Chinese firewall!