American tech behemoth, Apple Inc has announced that it has signed a deal to bring its iPhone to China Mobile – the world’s largest carrier.
The Chinese firm has more than 760 million subscribers and was one of three networks to be awarded China’s first 4G licences early December.
Apple has been angling to increase its sales in China, the world’s largest smartphone market, but has struggled to achieve that in the midst of growing competition from its rivals.
The latest deal is expected to help it increase its market share.
“China is an extremely important market for Apple,” Tim Cook, Apple chief executive, said in a statement.
“Our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world’s largest network.”
Earlier this year, Mr. Cook said he expected China to replace North America as Apple’s largest source of revenue. The iPhone is the firm’s most important product in terms of earnings power.
China is the world’s biggest smartphone-using country, with 1.2 billion users.
Nevertheless, analysts say the deal has huge potential. Cantor Fitzgerald Research estimates that Apple could sell 24 million iPhones next year to China Mobile customers alone.
Apple sold 102.4 million iPhones globally in the nine months to September this year.
Previously, China Mobile subscribers have not been able to use Apple’s iPhone, because the firm’s 3G technology was not compatible with Apple handsets.
However, its 4G network will work with the iPhone 5s and 5c.
“This is one of the biggest partnership announcements Apple has made in the past several years,” Manoj Menon, managing director of consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, told the BBC.
“It gives them access to more than 10% of the global mobile phone users. It is an incredible growth opportunity for Apple.”
However, he added that in order to fully realise the potential of the deal, Apple may need to introduce even more affordable phone models.
The iPhone 5s and 5c will be available to China Mobile subscribers from 17 January.