China Mobile Kicks Off iPhone Preorders Thursday, 4G Network Booting Up Dec. 18

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Last week, it came out that China Mobile and Apple had finally penned a deal to bring the iPhone to China’s largest mobile network, and now the Wall Street Journal reports that iPhone 5s pre-order sales begin this Thursday, with China Mobile’s new 4G services going live on Dec. 18.

The pre-order listing and advertisement for 4G and the iPhone 5s is already live on China Mobile’s official website, and China Mobile confirmed to the WSJ that it will indeed kick off pre-order sales officially starting this Thursday. There will also be an event on Dec. 18 at which the carrier intends to reveal its 4G network to global partners in Guangzhou, which should cover Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjian, Shenzen and Nanjing before 2013 is out, with plans to expand coverage further in the new year. This would be the official launch building off of its existing 4G trial distribution.

China Mobile represents a massive potential new customer base for Apple, as it has a ridiculous 759.3 million users on its network. Only 23 percent of those are on 3G, however, according to Forbes, and a smaller percentage will be eager to upgrade to 4G and invest in an iPhone. Still, analyst predictions for how many additional iPhones Apple could sell in 2014 with China Mobile on board seem to begin at 10 million, and extend up to nearly 40 million. Either way, it’s nothing but upside growth for Cupertino, from a client pool that’s increasingly important to its bottom line.

China Mobile has been losing subscribers to its rivals China Unicom and China Telecom since they both offer the iPhone, and have for years, in a scenario that’s similar to what happened in the U.S. when AT&T had iPhone exclusivity for multiple years before it came to other U.S. carriers. Both it and Apple should benefit considerably from this new partnership, and for Apple in particular, this should help stave off critics who say it’s running out of market in general.