China Mobile has announced, among plans for the expansion of their 4G network, that Apple will be releasing an iPhone compatible with the new network by 2014.
While 4G service has been around for a while in the US, it has seen a very limited roll-out due to the cost of placing new hardware across essentially an entire continent, along with a slow uptake in customer adoption of new 4G smartphones capable of taking advantage of the new network; most 4G rollout in the US has been centered on major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. Across the Pacific, however, China Mobile has been working hard deploying its 4G TD-LTE network; while no phones yet exist to take advantage of this network for sale in China, the vice GM, Li Zhengmao, recently said that the phones would be coming to the market soon. One such phone is set to be available by the end of the year, with at least ten available by the middle of 2013 and more than 100 by 2014, including a 4G-capable version of Apple’s iPhone.
This gives us the first hard deadline for the iPhone’s release in China, though there is a possibility that this timeframe will slip. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or MIIT, has yet to approve of China Mobile’s plan. In fact, the MIIT has been slowing China Mobile’s 4G plans for some time, so there is a strong possibility that the iPhone could be delayed even longer.
Even if the plan is approved of in its entirety, waiting two years for a China Mobile-compatible iPhone is probably the last thing their customers wanted to hear, but China Telecom and China Unicom can breathe a collective sigh of relief; no matter the new phone released by Apple, they won’t have to worry about fast 4G competition in China until 2014 at the soonest.