China Mobile: 'we are still negotiating with Apple' over 700 million potential customers

China Mobile's user base of 700 million subscribers could provide a massive boost to Apple's revenue, though neither company has confirmed the deal

Apple and China Mobile, the country’s largest mobile operator, are still in the middle of negotiations over a deal that would add iPhones to the Chinese firm's network.

Negotiations between the pair have been on-going for years, with Apple extremely keen to tap China Mobile's 700 million subscriber base – a potential audience seven times the size of the largest carrier in the US, and more than twice the size of the entire American population.

Greater China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, is currently Apple’s third largest market in terms of revenue, after the US and Europe.

Analysts have suggested that if the deal is confirmed it could bring in as many as 20 million new iPhone sales for Apple, a 17 per cent increase on the company’s global sales in the last financial year.

The Wall Street Journal cited a person familiar with the situation saying that the deal would be announced 18 December to coincide with China Mobile’s unveiling of a new high-speed 4G network. The network would offer both of the new iPhone models, the 5s and the 5c, but only on the new network.

However, the deal has yet to be confirmed by either company.

“We are still negotiating with Apple, but for now we have nothing new to announce," China Mobile spokeswoman Rainie Lei told Reuters, whilst Apple decline to comment.

iPhones are currently sold in China by smaller networks including China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd and China Telecom Corp, and are popular with Chinese consumers as premium devices.

As well as the possible new users, China Mobile's introduction of 4G could be significant for Apple.

Analysts GSM Intelligence have suggested that 80 per cent of mobiles in China still run on slower 2G networks, and the leap to faster speeds would only boost the attraction of Apple's devices by unlocking their networked potential.

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has only recently granted licenses for 4G connections to the country's carriers, following the global trend towards faster mobile networks. It's been predicted that 50 per cent of all mobiles will be using 3G or 4G connections by 2017.

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