After years of rumors, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) may have finally signed a deal with China Mobile that will see the iPhone sold on the world's largest carrier, sources close to the matter tell The Wall Street Journal.
According to reports, the deal is widely expected to be formally announced on Dec. 18 when China Mobile will unveil a brand for its new 4G service. An indication of the China Mobile deal came earlier this year, when Apple's iPhone was granted a license from government authorities to operate on the 4G network protocol China Mobile will use. One of the reasons the deal has been slow to come about is because Apple was reluctant to use the Chinese carrier's relatively unreliable 3G network.
China Mobile, which boasts an estimated 740 million subscribers, is one of the world's few major mobile carriers that has not sold the iPhone. If the news is indeed true, gaining access to China Mobile's network could add 20 million additional iPhone activations in 2014, says research firm Trefis, making for a 17 percent surge from Apple's handset sales in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 28.
In the third quarter, the one most recently reported by Apple, China was the firm's third-largest market, after the Americas and Europe, with $5.7 billion in revenue, up 6 percent in the same year-ago period.
As news of the possible deal spread, Apple shares were up 1.4 percent to $572.67 in early trading Thursday.
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