Chinese Regulators Approve Two Versions Of iPhone 5 As Planned December Launch Nears

Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed December as the launch timeframe for iPhone 5 in China on the investor call last week, and now the smartphone is one step closer to launch; AllThingsD notes that it has received approval from China’s State Radio Management organization, meaning only a network access license remains to be granted before it can be legally sold in the country.

The State Radio Management organization approved both a CDMA network version for China Telecom, and one that’s thought to be compatible with China Unicom’s 3G network. The iPhone 4S debuted on China Telecom starting in March this year, ending China Unicom’s 18-month exclusivity deal with Apple. China Telecom and China Unicom represent roughly 127 million 3G subscribers between them, but both still trail the country’s leading service provider, China Mobile, which has 75.6 million subscribers.

Reaching a wider audience isn’t that much of a problem for Apple in China, however. In fact, the company had to halt sales of the iPhone 4S shortly after its launch in January owing to riots and frustration based on a lack of initial device supply. Demand for the iPhone 5 is likely also going to be high, since it seems as though consumers are waiting in that country for the latest device, leading to stalling sales of older versions. Gray market sales have also indicated a strong appetite for the iPhone 5, with consumers buying them up at more than twice the turnover rate of the iPhone 4S just after launch, according to Alibaba’s Taobao index.

Apple is still facing “a significant state of backlog” regarding iPhone 5 production right now, according to Cook on the investor call, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of stock levels are available for its initial Chinese rollout once that last certification hurdle is cleared.