China Mobile Makes $7 Billion Push Towards 4G LTE, Still no Progress in Talks with Apple

iphone_3G_china.jpgChina Mobile — the world’s largest wireless carrier — is making a big bet on 4G LTE, with a planned investment of nearly $7 billion to build infrastructure towards this goal. The 4G network would be compatible with handsets made by most major manufacturers, including Apple, indicating that the company is getting ready to carry the iPhone 5.

Previously China Mobile used a proprietary 3G network, which meant that many global phones, like the iPhone, had to fall back on a much slower network.

Negotiations with Apple to carry the iPhone have still made “no progress” though, China Mobile’s CEO noted. The last meeting between the two companies was earlier this year when Tim Cook and Phil Schiller visited China. Despite years of talks between high-level executives of both companies, China Mobile still doesn’t officially carry the iPhone on its network. It does, however, have 15 million unofficial iPhones on its network.

From WSJ’s report:

While China Mobile has been in talks with Apple for years over a potential deal to offer the iPhone, Chief Executive Li Yue said that there had been “no progress” to report. In January, Mr. Xi met Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook in Beijing and discussed cooperation, raising expectations that China Mobile would soon begin offering the iPhone.

China Mobile would be a key partner for Apple, which faces fierce competition from Samsung Electronics Co. and other rivals offering smartphones powered by Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

Going by how Apple started dominating the U.S. smartphone sales after it expanded to multiple carriers, iPhone’s growth would follow a similar pattern if it comes on China Mobile’s network, though the effect would be greatly amplified due to the large subscriber base in China.