After months of speculation, China Mobile will finally be the first carrier to offer 4G LTE in China on Dec. 18, followed by China Unicom and China Telecom, the country’s other two major carriers. The news was confirmed by Xinhua, the Chinese government’s official mouthpiece.
The launch of 4G in China is a potential boon for Apple, because this means the company can start offering versions of the two latest iPhone models compatible with TD-LTE, the 4G standard used by China Mobile. After years of negotiations, Apple secured the final government license needed to run the iPhone on China Mobile’s proprietary wireless network in September. China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile carrier with 760 million subscribers, which means that once it starts selling iPhones, Apple may enjoy a significant boost in sales and regain some of the market share it has lost to Android. From China Mobile’s perspective, offering iPhones (and other handsets) that support TD-LTE is a valuable tool to convince users to spend more time on its networks.
Xinhua says that 4G will be available first in Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing. Shanghai residents will have to wait longer for an upgrade because the city is building its own 4G network.
In addition to Apple, foreign companies that can expect to benefit from the launch of China Mobile’s 4G network include Ericsson, Nokia Solutions and Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics. China Mobile said in April that about a quarter of the 190.2 billion RMB ($30.1 billion) it will spend on its networks has been earmarked for TD-LTE technology.