Things seem to be on track for the iPhone 5 to meet its December release timeline in Greater China, since the device has now received approval for the final piece in the regulatory puzzle required for it to go on sale. The Wall Street Journal reports that it has now obtained its “network access” license, and the notice mentions China Telecom by name, though not a version of the phone that would work with China Unicom.
China Telecom backed up the timeline proposed by Apple CEO Tim Cook during a conference call earlier this month, saying at an event that the phone would arrive on its network by early December at the latest. At the time, China Unicom did indeed express skepticism about when exactly the phone would be hitting its network, suggesting it was all in the hands of regulators at that point. If China Telecom has an exclusive head start on iPhone 5, it could attract away some subscribers hungry for the device.
People are interested in watching the iPhone 5’s progress in China because there’s a feeling that the company would be better served by getting its devices to market in that country as quickly as possible among analysts. Rival devices from Android handset makers are said to be growing in market share, according to recent info from Gartner, as consumers wait on the iPhone (or give up waiting) in order to get the latest model.
Generally, devices go on sale in China within a few weeks of receiving this final regulatory approval. Apple may do its best to hasten the device out the door, however, but that could depend on its manufacturing capacity. A big reason why it often waits so long to enter China is ensuring it has sufficient stock to cover other markets first: shortages meant the wait for iPhone 5 in its original markets was long until very recently, with shipping times recently improving to just one week in the U.S.