The iPhone 5 received its final regulatory approval, the crucial “network access license” from China yesterday, but the original report from the Wall Street Journal only found approval for the China Telecom version of the device. Now, however, Chinese news sources report that the iPhone 5 variant which works with China Unicom has also received network access approval.
That means that the iPhone 5 will likely hit both networks by sometime in mid-December, if Apple sticks to the timeline of putting its device up for sale around 2 to 3 weeks after receiving this final necessary approval from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. China Unicom uses a WCDMA network, and China Telecom uses a CDMA-based network, and now versions for both (codename A1429 and A1442, respectively).
A simultaneous granting of licenses should indicate neither provider will get a head start on the other, despite comments earlier in the month from the chairmen of both companies that seemed to indicate different levels of confidence in being able to launch the iPhone 5 before year’s end. It should also mean Apple will be launching the iPhone 5 to as broad an audience as possible when it debuts the smartphone in December, though subscribers on China’s largest network, China Mobile, will still have to get the device unlocked and off-contract to be able to join in on the fun.
Still, the launch should be impressive. Apple had to actually halt the iPhone 4S launch in China as crowds became unruly when it made it available to China Unicom customers in January. Then, when the 4S went on sale at China Telecom in March, Apple racked up an impressive 200,000 pre-orders for the device. That was China Telecom’s first introduction of the iPhone, making it the largest carrier in the world by subscribers to offer the CDMA version of the iPhone.