Update: A new report claims that the MIIT network permit may actually be for the 8GB iPhone 4, as noted by Penn Olson. Insiders from China Unicom have allegedly told Sina Tech that the iPhone 4S is still awaiting approval.
MIC Gadget reports that China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued the necessary network access permit for the iPhone 4S earlier this week.
According to the report, the Cupertino, Calif., company's latest handset received a certificate valid for three years. The permit was believed to have been the last obstacle for Apple.
In response to the news, China Unicom said it expects to launch the device by the end of the month. The carrier reportedly estimates the 16GB iPhone 4S will cost 4,999 yuan ($786) off contract.
The company revealed in late November that it had already finished preparations for the iPhone 4S and was simply awaiting the final permit from the government.
Financial analysts have indicated that their estimates of 28 million iPhone units shipped in the fourth quarter of calendar 2011 will see a strong upside if Apple manages to launch the iPhone 4S in the world's most populous country by the end of the quarter. According to Apple, there are already 7,000 points of sale for its smartphone in the country.
Source: MIC Gadget.
As for Greater China, the iPhone 4S arrived in Hong Kong to frenzied crowds in November. The handset is set to launch in Taiwan on Dec. 16. Apple has been on a tear in the region as of late. The company saw record sales of $4.5 billion there last quarter, making it the company's second-largest market in terms of revenue.
Chief Executive Tim Cook said during a recent quarterly earnings call that progress in China, which recently surpassed the U.S. to become the world's largest smartphone market, has been "amazing" and offers continued promise of "enormous opportunity" for the company. According to one survey, Apple is now seen as the leading smartphone brand in China, with consumer purchase intentions roughly 4.5 times the device's current market share.