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Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 06:55 am PT (09:55 am ET)

China Mobile exec says Apple is working on a 4G LTE iPhone

The chairman of carrier China Mobile said on Wednesday that Apple has "made it clear" that the company intends to support high-speed long-term evolution 4G wireless technology in a future update to the iPhone.

China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou spoke this week about the prospect of the new CDMA iPhone coming to his company's network, according to Reuters. In remarks made in Davos, Switzerland, he also revealed that Apple has plans to support long-term evolution 4G networks, though he did not provide a timeframe.

"These two years we have been discussing the issue. Right now the situation is moving forward. Apple has made it clear they will support TD-LTE," he was quoted as saying.

China Mobile utilizes a TD-SCDMA network, its own home-grown standard for 3G wireless connectivity. The chairman revealed that his company has been in negotiations for years with Apple in an effort to get the company to support the technology with the iPhone.

Apple was asked about the prospect of an LTE iPhone when it announced the new CDMA iPhone, set to arrive on the Verizon network in the U.S. on Feb. 10, earlier this month. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook revealed that Apple chose not to go with LTE because it would require significant design changes for the handset, and Verizon and its customers indicated they would rather not wait for the iPhone.

China Mobile has been talking up the iPhone for some time, but Apple's handset remains only available on the China Unicom network in a non-exclusive deal that became official in 2009.

While China Unicom has more than 150 million subscribers, China Mobile remains a much larger opportunity for Apple, with more than 570 million subscribers as of 2010.

Apple has concentrated its efforts on China in recent years, an investment that has begun to pay off for the Cupertino, Calif., company. Last quarter, the company reported a fourfold increase in revenue from the nation of over one billion, amassing $2.6 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2011.

Apple executives also revealed that its four retail stores in China are now the company's most visited in the entire world. The iPhone maker intends to aggressively expand its retail presence in China, with plans to open 25 retail stores in the nation.