With new 4G licenses awarded in China, Apple is ready for big iPhone sales

Three China telecom operators have shiny new 4G licenses and guess what: Apple’s iPhone was certified for some of these networks back in September. All three providers — China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom — can now officially move forward with their TD-LTE plans and that means Apple(s aapl) is lined up to take full advantage of a big opportunity.

When China’s Telecom Equipment Certification Center provided a license for Apple’s phones to run on China Mobile’s network a few months back we wondered exactly why. After all, at that time, China Mobile didn’t have 4G and was using TD-SCDMA for 3G, which Apple’s new iPhones don’t support. Now it’s expected that China Mobile will launch its LTE service on December 18, which means Apple can sell then a compatible iPhone although the current model won’t fall back to 3G, posing an interesting situation.

China offers a huge opportunity for smartphone sales; not only does it have nearly 1.4 billion people as the world’s most populous country, smartphone uptake has been slower than in other regions, mainly because China is late to the 4G game. That’s fine by Apple because Cupertino has already prepared for TD-LTE support overseas by including it along with compatibility with 16 other LTE network implementations in a single handset.