China Mobile: No Apple Deal — Yet
China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) has denied the recent media reports that said it had finalized a distribution deal with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), reports Reuters. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal cited an unnamed insider source that reported that the carrier would announce its recently signed agreement with Apple at a China Mobile conference on December 18.
However, China Mobile has denied that the long-rumored deal between the two companies has been finalized. “We are still negotiating with Apple, but for now we have nothing new to announce,” said China Mobile spokesperson Rainie Lei via Reuters. Apple declined to offer any comment on the distribution deal rumors.
The rumors of China Mobile’s iPhone distribution deal followed the news that China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued 4G operating licenses to China Mobile and several other carriers this week. China Mobile is expected to unveil its new 4G services at its conference in Guangzhou on December 18.
The official 4G operating license was widely viewed as the last barrier for China Mobile’s ability to offer the latest iPhone models. As previously reported by the Wall Street Journal, the TD-LTE versions of Apple’s iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C have already been licensed by China’s Telecom Equipment Certification Center. TD-LTE is the 4G standard used by China Mobile.
According to its official website, China Mobile is the world’s largest carrier with over 750 million subscribers. However, Apple currently only has distribution deals with China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) and China Telecom (NYSE:CHA), the country’s two other major carriers. A deal with China Mobile is likely to significantly boost Apple’s market share in China where there are over 1 billion mobile phone users.
UBS analyst Steven Milunovich estimated earlier this week that a deal with China Mobile could give Apple an additional 10 million iPhone sales a year, reports International Business Times. Other predictions about China Mobile’s potential are even more optimistic. According to the Wall Street Journal, market research firm Trefis estimated that China Mobile could add as many as 20 million iPhone sales in 2014. However, it now appears that Apple watchers may have to wait even longer to find out the true impact of an Apple-China Mobile partnership.
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