iPhone built for China Telecom gains regulator approval

A version of the Apple’s iPhone built for China Telecom’s networks has received approval from a Chinese regulator, putting the iconic smartphone closer in the hands of customers of the mobile operator.

It’s not clear if the device is the iPhone 4S, the latest version of the iPhone. The China Radio Management office said on its website that it gave approval to an Apple smartphone built for China Telecom’s CDMA2000 network.

Apple’s iPhone was originally only built for networks using the WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) standard. But last year, Apple launched an iPhone 4 compatible with CDMA-based networks, leading to speculation that the device would eventually be offered by China Telecom.

Currently, China Telecom’s rival China Unicom has been the only carrier to officially sell the iPhone in the country. On January 13, China Unicom will start selling the iPhone 4S.

China Telecom, which has 123 million mobile subscribers, plans to begin selling an iPhone device sometime this year, but negotiations with Apple are still ongoing, said company spokesman Xu Fei on Monday. The company could end up selling an iPhone 4S or a future iPhone 5, depending on China Telecom’s final agreement and when it is reached, he added.

“We want to sell the iPhone soon,” he said. “But there’s no timetable at the moment.”

China Telecom was not involved in the approval of the iPhone device by the China Radio Management office, Xu added. Apple did not immediately comment.

The iPhone device approved by the China Radio Management office will still have to receive a license from China’s Telecommunications Equipment and Certification Center before it can be officially sold.

China Telecom and China Unicom together have about 320 million mobile subscribers. The number is however roughly half compared to China Mobile’s subscriber base of 644 million. China Mobile has also been in talks with Apple about offering the iPhone on its networks. Its network supports another standard known as TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access), which Apple does not as yet support.

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