Looks like the iPhone may finally be headed to China Telecom.
Reuters reports that long-running discussions between the two companies are nearing a deal that would allow China Telecom, the country’s third largest wireless carrier, to begin selling the iPhone by the end of this year.
“It’s expected to happen this year,” a source close to the company told Reuters. “China Telecom already has the required technology and it all hinges on content of the agreement. As we all know, it’s not easy to negotiate with Apple.”
No word on a hard launch date yet, though November seems a likely target.
Regardless of when the device debuts on China Telecom, the implications of a broadening of iPhone distribution in China are significant. As I’ve noted here before there are potentially massive growth opportunities for Apple in the Asia-Pacific. China Telecom currently has about 105.7 million wireless subscribers and 19.7 million of them use 3G. That’s a vast untapped market, one that Ticonderoga analyst Brian White says could represent a revenue opportunity for the iPhone of $8 billion to $9 billion.
And potentially more — much more.
Says White, “…If we assumed China Telecom’s entire 3G subscriber base could afford an iPhone, we estimate this represents a $12 billion revenue opportunity for the iPhone. If we assumed China Telecom’s entire subscriber base of 105.7 million users could afford an iPhone, we estimate the iPhone opportunity at $66 billion.”