Nokia scored a minor coup by beating Apple to a deal, but it looks as if the Finnish company won't get to capitalise on the will most important shopping period in China thanks to shortages of the Windows Phone device.
China Mobile, China's largest carrier, ordered 90,000 Nokia Lumia 920Ts, but Nokia has only been able to deliver 30,000 through January, a China Mobile spokesperson told Bloomberg.
The shortage means most of China Mobile's outlets will not be carrying the 4599-RMB device ($738) ahead of China's retail equivalent to Christmas: Chinese New Year, which begins on 10 February.
At Chinese New Year, unmarried youths across the nation will deliver the cheeky statement "hong bao na lai" to elders, which translates to "give me the red packet" — a packet that is, at least for the well-heeled, filled with a wad of cash. If it's not saved, the money will likely end up being spent during the clearance sales that begin after the 10-day break that follows Chinese New Year.
ZDNet asked Nokia for a confirmation of the supply constraint and when it expects to fulfill the order: "We are working hard to get devices into people’s hands as quickly as we can," a spokesman for the company said.
The deal with China Mobile represents a huge opportunity for Nokia, but failing to deliver to the fiercely contested market may prove problematic for the company.
After Nokia announced Lumia sales of 4.4 million in the fourth quarter of last year, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said demand in China was "outstripping supply at this point". Nokia CFO Timo Ihamuotila added the extra capacity it was building to match demand in the country would be reached "in the not too distant future."
The shortfall is likely to be a disappointment for China Mobile which, according to Bloomberg, has placed billboards across Beijing that urge customers to "Change Phones for the New Year" with the Lumia 920T.
Nokia last December, a deal that was notable to many Apple observers as the mobile operator is one of the last major players yet to carry the iPhone.
China Mobile had 88 million 3G subscribers at 31 December, 2012 (up 300,000 from the previous month). However, the big opportunity for Apple, Nokia and other rivals lies in the remaining 632 million customers still on China Mobile's older network, who could be converted to 3G. China Mobile's rivals, China Unicom and China Telecom, both carry the iPhone and provide Apple with 70 million and 55 million 3G subscribers, respectively.