China Telecom Confirms iPhone 5 Arriving On Its Network In “Early December”

Apple is gearing up for the iPhone 5’s launch in China, tracking down all the necessary certifications it requires ahead of launch, and now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that China Telecom, the country’s third-largest operator, will offer it by early December, if not earlier, echoing statements made by Apple CEO Tim Cook. Apple’s iPhone launches in China have become nearly as important as the launch among the initial crop of countries thanks to that nation’s growing role in Apple’s revenue breakdown.

Apple reported China channel sales were up 26 percent year over year during its fiscal Q4 this year, with iPhone sales up 38 percent for the year with total revenues in the $23.8 billion range. 15 percent of Apple’s revenues came from the Greater China region, which includes mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

Cook said on last month’s earnings call that the iPhone 5 would launch in China in December, but today’s report adds more detail to that timeline, suggesting that China Telecom might have an exclusive on the device for at least some time. China Unicom told the WSJ that while they hope to offer it this year, he’s not sure that’s what will end up happening. Apple still has to achieve final regulatory approval to sell in the country, but China Telecom Chairman Wang Xiaochu was confident that would happen sometime very soon.

China’s largest mobile operator, China Mobile, still doesn’t offer the iPhone on its network officially. Still, the carrier claims 15 million iPhone subscribers despite not being an official partners. It’ll be interesting to see how the market shakes out now that Apple’s offering LTE speeds on its iPhone, but using network technologies that are incompatible with China Mobile’s growing network.