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According to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, China Mobile will introduce Apple's iPhone to its 700 million subscribers by the end of the year, but the world's largest telecom first needs to finish rolling out its TDD-LTE network, a task that could delay the phone's launch until November.
Rumors of a China Mobile iPhone were reignited on Friday after a Wall Street Journal report cited sources as saying Apple is preparing "iPhone 5C" shipments for the communications giant.
It was subsequently reported that versions of the iPhone compatible with common FDD-LTE networks would be released first, while models compatible with TDD-LTE networks, like China Mobile, could be delayed to November due to regulatory approval processes.
In a note to investors, Kuo said he expects Apple to announce both FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE versions of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C at an event scheduled for Sept. 10. Regardless of approval from state communications entities, the analyst notes China Mobile has not yet properly prepared its 4G network, meaning a launch could take one to two months.
"As China Mobile hopes to use iPhone 5S as the flagship model for promoting its TDD-LTE network, it would come as no surprise if the TDD-LTE version of iPhone 5S launches before iPhone 5C," Kuo said.
A deal with China Mobile is seen by many as Apple's next step in the burgeoning Chinese smartphone market. Some believe Apple has tailored its iPhone offerings, like the rumored iPhone 5C, to meet the needs of Chinese consumers. Even the high-end iPhone 5S will supposedly be offered in a color described as "champagne" to suit the tastes of Chinese customers.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has on multiple occasions met with China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua to hammer out a deal, though an official agreement has yet to be announced.
Reports from as late as August claimed the two companies were still in talks, with Xi saying his company must resolve "commercial and technology issues" with Apple, and that those matters "need time."