Thursday, June 23, 2011, 01:50 pm PT (04:50 pm ET)
China Mobile rumored to get Apple's fifth-gen iPhone in SeptemberChina Mobile could be among the first carriers to offer Apple's next-generation handset when it becomes available later this year, according to a new rumor.
Citing a report from the Chinese site Bianews.com, analyst Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities said in a new note to investors on Thursday that China Mobile may receive the iPhone in September. The source is said to be an employee of China Mobile, who reportedly posted the information on "Weibo," which is China's version of Twitter.
The Weibo message was said to have been quickly deleted, but not before an image of the text was captured.
White noted that if the report is true, it would mean that the iPhone 5 would need to support China Mobile's current 3G TD-SCDMA network, because the carrier's 4G TD-LTE network is only in trials. Apple is said to have already agreed to support China Mobile's 4G network at some point in the future.
"If this weibo message and story are true, this would represent a landmark agreement for Apple, providing the company with access to the largest wireless carrier in the world with 611 million wireless subscribers at the end of May or 68% of the total China wireless market," White said. "Additionally, the timing would be much sooner than expected and provide another growth driver for the final months of (calendar year 2011)."
White has been on top of the Apple-China Mobile story, and earlier on Thursday offered his analysis that Apple would make great inroads in the nation, particularly by reaching an agreement with the largest carrier in the world. In addition, he believes Apple would do extremely well by releasing a smaller, cheaper iPhone that could be sold in China without a contract.
Rumors of an agreement between Apple and China Mobile picked up steam on Wednesday, when a report claimed that Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook was spotted at the carrier's corporate headquarters. Cook was said to be in good spirits, and speculation began to swirl that the two parties are nearing a deal.
China Mobile currently uses home-grown 3G data technology that is incompatible with the existing GSM and CDMA iPhone models. Despite this fact, there are estimated to be 4 million iPhone users on the massive network, running their device at much slower 2G wireless data speeds.
The iPhone 4 launched in China on carrier China Unicom last September, drawing crowds of thousands at Apple's retail stores. The handset debuted first in the U.S. in late June of last year.
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