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Summary:

The iPhone 4S will arrive March 9 on China Telecom, China’s third-largest carrier. It’s an important step for Apple, which has highly prioritized its China business, but the number of reachable customers pales in comparison to the 650 million customers China Mobile serves.

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Apple’s iPhone 4S will arrive very soon on China Telecom, China’s third-largest carrier. The phone will be available for sale starting March 9. It’s an important step for Apple, which has highly prioritized its business in China, but the number of customers it will reach on that network will pale in comparison to the roughly 650 million Apple could reach by striking a deal with China Mobile.

The China Telecom deal has been in the works for a while. Last month it was reported that only the final steps for the phone to be certified to run on the network remained, and that the deal would be finished by the end of February. By offering the iPhone 4S — of which Apple has sold 37 million units in just three months — to China Telecom’s 15 million customers, Apple stands to add to its already impressive tally for number of iPhone 4Ses sold.

But more importantly, by adding yet another carrier, Apple is moving closer to more fully addressing its second-most important market in the world. It already has China Unicom, where one out of every five of the carrier’s subscribers have chosen the iPhone, according to Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty.

The big “get,” however, is China Mobile, which has a 70 percent share of mobile customers in China. The two sides have been talking, but there are still some technical hurdles. Considering how important China is to Apple, it seems like Cupertino would find a way to iron those out eventually.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been very clear about his commitment to the country and has said he’s “never seen a country with as many people rising into the middle class aspiring to buy products that Apple makes. It’s an area of enormous opportunity.”

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  1. Bloggers seem to think that Apple can instantly ramp up huge iPhone numbers in the blink of an eye. As it is, Foxconn can barely keep up with demand and yet the bloggers and media are always concerned about how Apple isn’t working hard enough to get China Mobile as a customer.

    What’s wrong with Apple taking some small steps at a time? As it is, Apple had the problem of supplying enough iPhones for China and everyone was saying that Apple should have waited until there were more iPhones available. You think Apple is doing this because it wants to. There is a finite supply of iPhones and I don’t think that Apple is yet ready to take on China Mobile’s iPhone demand. Maybe you want those Foxconn workers really put under some pressure.

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    1. Sorry but this is a Apple’s issue, its either their way or highway. That’s why they got the number 3 operators in China. Yes at 100million+ subscribers its still number 3 operators.

      China Mobile with 550million+ subscribers is worlds largest network operator, China Unicom is second largest with close to 200million.

      Verizon and ATT ? – small punny subscriber base – but as the its costs stupidly high in US for 1KB of data compared to China, they are big enough in terms of revenue.

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      1. China Mobile may have 600M+ subscribers but most them are dumbphone users. Unicom is almost on par with China Mobile when it comes to 3G subscribers. China Mobile wants a cut of App Store revenues which Apple will never give them.

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  2. Hmmm? I don’t get these numbers Erica, “Apple has sold 37 million units in just three months — to China Telecom’s 15 million customers.” That would mean each customer own’s more than one phone and 15 million sounds small for third largest mobile company in a county of 1.3 billion people.

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  3. They’ll do the same thing they did to Verizon. Just give ‘em two to three years. So many people will leave China Mobile to get the iPhone they’ll be forced to cave to Apple’s wishes.

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