Carrier China Mobile is set to launch the first 4G LTE network in China on Dec. 18, a development that likely will serve as a bonanza for mobile heavyweights Apple(AAPL), Samsung andQualcomm (QCOM) and perhaps provide a boost to Lenovo‘s smartphones.
China Mobile, which said last spring it would devote some $30.1 billion to build out a TD-LTE 4G mobile telecommunications network for its 750 million subscribers, stands to benefit from selling Apple’s newest iPhones as well as handsets from other mobile device manufacturers. The same goes for Apple as it now can bank on China Mobile to help cut into Samsung’s unit sales lead in China.
China’s two other carriers, China Unicom and China Telecom, will follow with 4G networks, according to Xinhua, the Chinese government’s state run press agency, which said the advanced telecommunications network will be available initially in Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongquing.
“China will start commercial 4G mobile communications services on Dec. 18, bringing the most advanced telecommunications technology to the country’s more than 1 billion mobile users,” Xinhua said.
The city of Shanghai is building out its own 4G network, which will be ready sometime after China Mobile’s, according to the Chinese press agency.
Xinhua referenced Li Yue, China Mobile’s president, who predicted the 4G phone will do well in mainland China, particularly with lower-cost units priced below 1,000 yuan, or $162, slated to appear on the market in the second half of 2014.
In September, a Chinese regulator approved Apple’s iPhone to operate on China Mobile’s proprietary mobile network, clearing the way for the huge Chinese carrier to sell the iPhone for the first time after years of negotiations between the two companies. The Chinese regulator also granted licenses to China Unicom and China Telecom, which means all three Chinese carriers gained authority to offer the iPhone on their mobile networks.
Specifically, Apple was supplied with a “network access license” for an iPhone-like handset that runs on China Mobile’s 3G and 4G mobile network services.
Nearly a year ago, Apple chief Tim Cook and China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua begandiscussing “matters of cooperation.” Prior talks between the two companies reportedly have snagged on revenue-sharing issues (China Mobile is said to want a piece of sales generated by Apple’s App Store from the carrier’s customers) and on a technical issue—China Mobile was using a TD-SCDMA network incompatible with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5—although that hurdle now has been overcome.
Apple is expected to introduce iPhones supporting China Mobile’s 4G network timed to the official launch date, Xinhua reported.