China Mobile may be nearly ready to start offering Apple's iPhone to its customers, and that could happen as early as December 18. The massive cell service carrier is planning on introducing its new 4G service on that date, and that has led to new speculation that an iPhone deal is about to be announced, too.
China Mobile has been the big holdout in the Chinese smartphone market, and bringing its customer base into the iPhone buying game would make for a big boost in sales for Apple. Currently, the carrier has over 740 million customers, more than twice the population of the United States, and many of those are potential iPhone buyers.
The carrier's new 4G network announcement may include full iPhone compatibility -- something that hasn't been available so far. Along with bringing more iPhone sales to Apple, the deal would also help China Mobile recoup some of the heavy costs it has incurred with its 4G network upgrades.
Assuming a deal is in the works, China Mobile could add an extra 20 million iPhone activations to Apple's bottom line in 2014, according to Forbes. In 2015 that number could jump to 30 million, and long term that could work up to 100 million units a year.
News that Apple and China Mobile were working on a deal coinciding with the carrier's new 4G network surfaced in August before the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C were introduced. The assumption was that the new iPhone models would include full China Mobile compatibility, making it easier bring the company's smartphones to the network.
Without Apple or China Mobile offering up any kind of confirmation, however, word of the pending deal is still limited to rumor and speculation. That said, the notion that an iPhone announcement could be coming on December 18 is interesting because it would finally open up the world's largest cell service provider to Apple.