Is the iPhone 5 Headed to China?

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5 has been granted a key approval to operate on China’s phone networks, almost clearing the way for the smartphone to launch in the world’s largest wireless market. The China State Radio Management agency approved two models of the phone — A1429 and A1442 — according to Chinese language news site Sina. The phone still needs a network access license from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

While a launch date for the device has not been announced, it could come before the end of the year. Apple started selling the device in Hong Kong on its launch day of September 21. The company has said it wants to bring the phone to 100 countries and 240 carriers by the end of the year.

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The A1429 model is compatible with China Unicom’s (NYSE:CHU) 3G network and China Mobile’s (NYSE:CHL) GSM network, while the A1442 is technically appropriate for China Telecom’s (NYSE:CHA) CDMA band. Apple still does not have an agreement with China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier by subscribers, to sell the iPhone. However, the two are said to be in the middle of negotiations for a deal that some analysts predict could balloon Apple’s sales in the country. China currently brings in around 15 percent of Apple’s global revenues.

On Monday, Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley said in a research note that Apple could almost double its iPhone unit shipment by the end of 2013. A lot of that will depend on whether Apple is able to make its China presence start mattering a lot more.

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