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Friday, March 04, 2011, 05:20 am PT (08:20 am ET)

China Mobile exec: Apple interested in building 4G LTE iPhone at an 'early date'

The chairman of carrier China Mobile has indicated that Apple has shown interest in quickly developing a 4G long-term evolution capable high-speed version of its iPhone.

Chairman Wang Jianzhou specifically cited Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs in his remarks made on Friday. China Mobile has been working to launch its own TD-LTE network for fourth-generation mobile bandwidth speeds.

"Jobs has expressed his interest in an LTE iPhone and is willing to start the development at an early date," Jianzhou said outside of a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference meeting in Beijing, according to Bloomberg.

China Mobile has been granted government approval to begin large-scale tests of its 4G TD-LTE network in Shanghai, Hangzhou and four other cities. The carrier is expected to invest $100 million in 4G this year.

The comments are similar to those made by Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg in an interview last November. He said Verizon's "embrace of LTE" had gained attention from Apple, which is interested in pursuing the new wireless cellular standard for its iPhone.

And Verizon Wireless CEO said in January that customers would see "more coming from Apple on LTE." He indicated that Apple understands the value in LTE, but did not offer a timeframe on when a 4G-capable iPhone might become available.

Verizon launched its own LTE network last December, but the recently launched Verizon iPhone 4 does not support that wireless standard. Officials said at the official Verizon iPhone unveiling in January that that Apple chose not to go with LTE because it would require design changes, and Verizon said they wanted the iPhone as soon as possible.

Apple has hired numerous LTE experts for its team over the years, and was seeking key new additions to its staff as recently as February.