Yesterday we reported that a China Mobile spokesman told CNN's Beijing bureau on Tuesday that there was no deal with Apple yet and that Bloomberg had reported that Apple was close to a deal. Today, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that their sources are confirming that China Mobile has finally signed a long-awaited deal with to offer iPhones on its network.
The rollout of iPhones on the world's largest mobile carrier by users, with over 700 million subscribers, is expected to start later this month, around the time of a Dec. 18 China Mobile conference in Guangzhou, according to two people familiar with the carrier's plans.
At a Dec. 18 event, China Mobile plans to unveil a brand for its fourth-generation, or 4G, network. China Mobile executives have said they would only begin to sell the iPhone after introducing 4G services. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said Wednesday it gave licenses to China Mobile and its smaller rivals to operate the higher-speed mobile networks, clearing one of the last hurdles.
Although the Wall Street Journal is convinced that the deal has now been officially sealed, some of their report still describes things as if it's yet to be done. For instance, the report states that "A deal with China Mobile would give Apple access to a subscriber base that is seven times the size of Verizon Wireless, the U.S.'s largest carrier." If the deal were done, they would have reported that "the deal will give" Apple access to a subscriber base that is seven times the size of Verizon.
The other oddity is that such a deal would be something that Apple would be glad to officially send out a press release to announce. And yet the Wall Street Journal reports that an "Apple spokeswoman declined to comment."
A deal with Mobile China is important to Apple and we'll keep reporting on this story until we see China Mobile officially selling iPhones. Yet at the moment it's a little difficult to believe that a China Mobile spokesperson would take the time to dispel rumors of an Apple deal with CNN's Beijing bureau on Tuesday, only to turn around in 48 hours to sign a deal. For now we'll wait until December 18 to see if they alleged launching event actually occurs. Perhaps at that time Apple will confirm the deal in a press release, but only time will tell.