Blog Post

With regulatory approval, iPhone 5 on track for December China launch

Apple’s newest iPhone(s AAPL) just cleared a big hurdle in China: the iPhone 5 was approved by the country’s telecom certification body. That means it’s only a matter of time before one of the country’s carriers, as well as Apple’s own retail stores in the country, will begin selling it.

The iPhone 5’s official network access license approval in the country, by the Telecommunications Equipment Certification Center, was first spotted by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. The regulatory body says licenses have been approved for two carriers, China Telecom and China Unicom. The chairmen of both companies said recently they each hoped to offer the iPhone 5 in December, but were waiting on the licenses. Conspicuously absent from that list, as expected, is China Mobile — the world’s biggest carrier in the world’s largest mobile phone market. Apple does not yet make a device that is compatible with China Mobile’s network.

But the other two carriers are nothing to sneeze at. They are the second- and third-largest carriers in the world’s largest market for mobile phones. China is critical to Apple, and getting December iPhone 5 sales there on the books before the end of the quarter should add to what should already be a huge holiday quarter for Apple.