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China Mobile, Apple agree on 4G TD-LTE technology

China Mobile revealed Thursday that it had reached an agreement with Apple to eventually support the carrier's fourth-generation TD-LTE data network, though it was unable to provide details on when exactly a 4G iPhone will arrive.

MarketWatch reports that China Mobile said it had "reached consensus" with Apple on using its fourth-generation technology on iPhones to be offered by the carrier, but no timeframe was given for the rollout.

China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou said talks with Apple to launch the iPhone remain ongoing. Wang did not specify what exactly had been agreed upon with Apple.

Wang also revealed that over 4 million China Mobile customers use the iPhone, despite the fact that rival China Unicom is the only carrier that offers Apple's smartphone. China Mobile currently uses a home-grown 3G data technology that is incompatible with current iPhones. According to the report, China Mobile plans to begin commercial trials of its time-division long term-evolution network next year.

In March, Wang went on record as saying that Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs had "expressed interest in an LTE iPhone" and was willing to start development "at an early date." Wang also said in January that Apple has "made it clear" that future updates to the iPhone will support long-term evolution 4G technology.

A 4G iPhone is likely more than a year away, however, as a recent report suggested that LTE chips from Qualcomm are not ready for the iPhone's required production levels. Apple had reportedly originally planned to release an LTE-capable iPhone in 2011, but has pushed the device back to at least 2012. The same report also noted that China Mobile is expected to begin selling Apple's next-generation iPhone later this year. Jeffries & Co. analyst Peter Misek has also predicted that China Mobile will get the iPhone "4S" in September.

Apple has seen phenomenal growth in China in recent years, with iPhone sales growing by almost 250 percent in the second quarter of fiscal 2011. The four Apple retail stores in China are the company's highest traffic and highest revenue stores worldwide.

Earlier this month, frenzied demand for the white iPhone 4 caused an altercation at an Apple Store in Beijing, resulting in four people being sent to the hospital and a broken glass door.