We began talking about a possible deal between Apple and Mobile China as far back as December 2012 and reported in January 2013 that Mobile China let it slip that they had a confidentiality agreement with Apple. Then the buzz about Apple's possible deal with China Mobile began in August of this year with expectations that they would launch an iPhone marketing campaign in November. The delay was due to licensing delays from the Chinese government. Today, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued 4G licenses to three Chinese telecom operators to provide users 20 to 50 times faster mobile Internet access compared with current 3G network and create a new trillion-yuan market for device and service upgrade. While the door is now open for Mobile China to launch their iPhone campaign, their deal with Apple may not yet be cemented as first thought.
According to Chinese news sources, China Mobile, the world's largest mobile carrier, got the home-grown TD-LTE license, while its rivals China Telecom and China Unicom got both domestically developed TD-LTE and the more international FDD-LTE licenses.
In cities like Beijing and Shenzhen, carriers have allowed users to apply for trial commercial use of 4G services with their own devices. In Shanghai, more than 1,600 people have been invited to test 4G services.
The next-generation network, along with e-commerce and software businesses, is expected to boost information consumption in China, the country's latest strategy to transform and upgrade its economy structure.
The initial investment for 4G will hit 500 billion yuan (US$82 billion), and is expected to hit 1 trillion yuan with the industry's development.
China Mobile is constructing and testing its 4G network nationwide, covering 100 cities, with an expected user base of 500 million people.
The report states that "Apple is expected to get additional income of US$10 billion through offering the iPhone for China Mobile, and is forecast to sell 17 million iPhones through China Mobile, according to RBC."
On Monday, Fortune broke the news that China Mobile was testing out an iPhone Launch campaign in Suzhou, a city of 5 million just west of Shanghai. The news was backed up by a photo of an advertisement that may have turned out to be another fake.
While the hype for Mobile China's deal with Apple has been high, especially with various Chinese sites showing Mobile China advertisements for the iPhone, there still may be a fly in the ointment.
According to Fortune's report update, "A China Mobile spokesman told CNN's Beijing bureau Tuesday that there was no deal yet with Apple." A new Bloomberg report today also noted that Apple was close to agreeing to a distribution deal with China Mobile," back in September with no further developments arising.
That would be a bit of a shocker if it turns out to be true and the kind of news that could sting Apple if a deal isn't struck in the coming weeks or months ahead.
If Apple has any hope of growing their iPhone business in China back to being one of the top five smartphones, then a deal with China Mobile is crucial.