Apple deal with China Mobile expected on December 18: One more iPhone model?

Apple’s iPhone is expected to launch in China on December 18 following the recent news of the country’s biggest three network carriers getting licenses to operate 4G networks. The Wall Street Journal shared the information from sources familiar with Apple’s(s aapl) plans on Thursday, just one day after the 4G licenses were awarded.

The December 18 date corresponds to an anticipated 4G network launch from China Mobile, the country’s largest carrier with more than 700 million subscribers. Just a 10 percent sell rate of the iPhone would net Apple another 70 million handsets sold, making this a huge opportunity for the company.

iPhone 5s M7 processor

I’m still unsure of how Apple and China Mobile plan to address one key issue: Fallback when outside of China Mobile’s 4G network. While the current iPhone does support 17 LTE frequencies — including China Mobile’s TD-LTE flavor — it doesn’t work on the carrier’s 3G network, which is based on TD-SCDMA.

That means one of three things. Apple has another iPhone model specifically for China Mobile that it will roll out in tandem with the news; China Mobile’s 4G network will work everywhere its current 3G network does; or there will simply be some dead zones for iPhone users on China Mobile.

I’m leaning towards the first option and expect that Apple could create a “special” iPhone specifically for China. After all, there are 700 million potential reasons to do so.