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Friday, August 14, 2009, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

China Unicom denies deal with Apple, purchase of iPhones

An official with China Unicom confirmed the company is in talks with Apple to be the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the nation of over one billion, but denied a report that the company purchased 5 million iPhones.

"Talks between us and Apple have been going on for some time, but no agreement has been reached yet," China Unicom spokesman Yi Difei told The Associated Press. "There are all kinds of possibilities. There is no particular timetable for the talks."

Responding specifically to the news that the company had supposedly purchased 10 billion yuan ($1.46 billion), Yi said: "The report is not true."

The news of an alleged deal, which broke Thursday in the China Business News, allegedly came from a sales manager for a Unicom subsidiary. That story claimed that the iPhone would be on sale in China as soon as September.

There are reportedly 650 million mobile phone accounts in China, with China Unicom carrying 133 million of those accounts. Competitor China Mobile, which has the most subscribers in the world, has more than 450 million customers.

Despite the fact that Apple and China Unicom remain negotiations, a new WCDMA model of the iPhone, without Wi-Fi, has already been granted regulatory approval by the Chinese government. The new iPhone is reportedly a GSM/WCDMA model that operates on the 900MHz, 1700MHz and 1900MHz bands. It also includes Bluetooth, but no Wi-Fi, and has been approved for use in China for the next five years.

In the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports that the two companies have entered into a three-year deal, but all of them have been quickly denied.