iPhone could be about to launch on China Mobile 4G

Apple may be about to fulfil ambition to expand into huge market as company reveals ad showing images resembling iPhones

China Mobile has advertised the launch of its 4G service next month, triggering speculation that Apple may have clinched a long-sought iPhone distribution deal with the world's largest mobile phone network.

Backing in the form of handset subsidies from an operator with over 700 million customers would be expected to push up the price of Apple. Forecaster ISI Group said the alliance could increase iPhone sales by more than 38m in 2014.

An advertisement has appeared on China Mobile's website featuring a cartoon tornado alongside the words "the invasion of 4G" and the date 11 November. Reuters reports the ad links to a page showing images of handsets resembling iPhones with the caption: "Special discounts for new handsets? The newest? The biggest discounts?"

Subsidised Apple handsets could help lure customers onto a network whose speeds will shortly be fast enough to exploit the full potential of 4G handsets.

11 November is "singles day" in China, a popular holiday on which young people celebrate their bachelor life and organise blind date parties. Popularised since the advent of the internet, it has also become one of the biggest shopping days of the year, with £2.4bn spent online last year according to McKinsey.

A deal with China Mobile would mark a successful conclusion to a long-held ambition for Apple, whose revenues from one of the world's largest markets rose just 6% in the three months to 28 September compared with the same period last year.

China already contributes £5.7bn in revenue a quarter to Apple, not far behind the $8bn (£5bn) earned from the entire European region, but the total could be much higher if Apple was to become one of the best selling smartphone brands in China.

The latest iPhones, the 5S and 5C, have already been approved by the Chinese authorities for use on these faster networks. Both Apple and China Mobile declined to comment.


Juliette Garside, telecoms correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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