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Chinese Apple fans upset over the company’s decision to temporarily halt sales of the iPhone 4S at its retail stores in China may soon have another way to get their hands on the device.
An iPhone compatible with the mobile network of China’ third-largest mobile carrier, China Telecom, has received a network access license, a regulatory website shows, marking a key step toward Apple being able to sell the phone to a broader audience in China.
The iPhone 4S is currently being sold in China through China Unicom, the country’s second-largest mobile carrier, as well as through Apple’s online store and resellers. Once Apple starts offering a version compatible with China Telecom’s network, the latest iteration of the device would presumably also be made available through China Telecom stores.
The license arrives as Apple aims to increase sales of its smartphones and iPad tablet computers in what has become a key growth market for the company. Offering an iPhone compatible with China Telecom technology will open up use of the device to tens of millions more Chinese mobile subscribers.
An iPhone supporting the CDMA-2000 mobile technology used by China Telecom received the license on Tuesday, the website of China’s Telecommunication Equipment Certification Center showed. Vendors in China often start selling new handsets within weeks of devices receiving network access licenses. Some analysts expect China Telecom to start offering the iPhone in the coming months.
Apple and China Telecom both declined to comment.
China Telecom has previously expressed interest in offering Apple devices. In March last year, chairman Wang Xiaochu cited a confidential agreement with Apple as the reason he couldn’t comment on whether China Telecom would offer the iPhone or iPad. The country’s largest fixed-line operator and third-largest mobile operator by subscriber accounts, the company had 123.4 million mobile customers at the end of November, including 33.4 million users of its third-generation mobile services.
China Mobile, the world’s biggest carrier by subscriber accounts, has for years said it is talking to Apple about offering the iPhone. Its homegrown 3G mobile standard, TD-SCDMA, is not compatible with any current version of the Apple device.
CORRECTION: The iPhone 4S is being sold in China through China Unicom stores, Apple’s online store and authorized Apple resellers. A previous post mistakenly said the device was only available through China Unicom.