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Apple and China Mobile have finally inked iPhone deal, WSJ reports

It’s been on the cards for years, but finally it appears that Apple has struck a deal with China Mobile  the world’s biggest wireless carrier by subscriber numbers  to bring the iPhone to millions of new users in a massive and fast-growing market.

Tim Cook and co. will surely be dancing around the Cupertino Christmas tree today, as this is a deal Apple has been after for some considerable time. A source told the Wall Street Journal that China Mobile, which has more than 700 million subscribers, will launch the iPhone on its service in a couple of weeks, possibly on December 18.

While Apple’s handset is already offered by carriers China Unicom and China Telecom, negotiations with China Mobile have taken far longer to complete, with network issues and lengthy discussions over sales volume guarantees apparently the cause of the protracted talks.

There’s never been any secret about the tech company’s desire to seal a deal with the Beijing-based carrier, with Tim Cook over the last couple of years visiting the carrier’s headquarters and meeting chairman Xi Guohua on several occasions.

With China Mobile set to offer the iPhone before the end of this year, Apple can look forward to improving its performance in a country where strong competition from Samsung and other companies offering cheaper devices has hindered growth. Market analyst company Canalys put Apple’s share of the smartphone market in China at 6 percent for the third quarter of this year, while Samsung is reported to enjoy a 21 percent share. 

Research firm Trefis told the Journal Apple’s deal with China Mobile could result in around 1.5 million iPhone activations each month next year, scoring Apple an extra 20 million sales by the end of 2014.

Although  neither company has confirmed or denied the deal as yet, there have been several indications recently that the pair were coming close to reaching agreement, with, for example, Apple over the summer granted a license by the government to run on China Mobile’s network.