China Telecom could offer the iPhone as early as February

China Telecom (s cha) is getting very near to launching Apple’s iPhone 4S (s aapl) on its network, the carrier said in a press release Tuesday obtained by China Daily. China Telecom subsidiary Beijing Telecom said a CDMA version of the iPhone 4S will likely be available to its customers by the end of February or the beginning of March.
Apple has been taking preparatory steps in advance of a launch with China Telecom, China’s third largest mobile network operator. Earlier in January, Apple secured regulatory approval to sell a device in China that operates using the CDMA2000 network standard, which is the technology China Telecom uses for its 3G network. At the time, the only step remaining for Apple was to get a license from China’s Telecommunications Equipment and Certification Center to begin selling the device, which it gained on Monday this week.
Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley’s (s ms) Katy Huberty predicted Apple could grow its iPhone sales by as many as 57 million units in China over the next two years if it succeeds in securing partnerships with China Telecom and China Mobile(s chl). China Telecom will offer Apple a potential subscriber pool of roughly 15 million high-end subscribers according to Morgan Stanley’s numbers, approximately doubling its current reach through official partner China Unicom(s chu).
The deal hasn’t yet been confirmed by Beijing Telecom’s parent company beyond the report from China Daily, and no pricing details have been released, but the pieces are in place, and there’s little reason to suspect Apple wouldn’t want to expand its presence in China as quickly as possible. No doubt a partnership with China Mobile, which reaches 650 million subscribers and has around a 70-percent share of the Chinese mobile market, is also a priority, but technological factors likely precludes official iPhone support until Apple creates a version specifically for China Mobile’s network.