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Apple announces iPhone deal with China Mobile, world’s largest wireless carrier

It’s the Christmas present Apple boss Tim Cook had been hoping for all year – an iPhone deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier. The 5S and 5C handsets will start selling with the world’s largest wireless carrier from January 17 as part of a “multi-year agreement”, the two companies announced Sunday.

The deal has been years in the making, with delays thought to have been caused by network issues and sales volume guarantees. Although China Unicom and China Telecom already offer the iPhone in the country, this latest deal gives the Cupertino company access to China Mobile’s enormous user base, which comprises in excess of 760 million people.

The tie-up is a real boost for Apple in a market where strong competition from the likes of Samsung and other companies offering cheaper handsets has put pressure on growth. Market analyst company Canalys said that in Q3 2013 Apple’s share of the smartphone market in China stood at about 6 percent, while Samsung enjoyed a healthier 21 percent share. 

Though Apple this year launched the more competitively priced 5C handset, it still costs more than many rival Android phones, a factor that could continue to hinder growth as consumers in the Asian country seek out cheaper phones.

News of the deal between Apple and China Mobile comes as the carrier begins the rollout of its 4G service to 340 cities across China. China Mobile’s iPhone will support its 4G/TD-LTE and 3G/TD-SCDMA networks, providing customers with a high-speed mobile service, the carrier said.

Apple boss Tim Cook said his company is “excited” to start working with China Mobile, adding that the country is “an extremely important market for Apple.”

Research firm Trefis told the Wall Street Journal recently that the tech giant’s deal with China Mobile could result in about 1.5 million iPhone activations each month in 2014, bringing Apple an extra 20 million sales by the end of the year.