The Wall Street Journal reports that China Telecom is preparing to begin offering the iPhone 5 in late November or early December, adding to the potential for a blockbuster holiday quarter for Apple.
Government officials haven't offered guidance on when the iPhone 5 might win final approval. But China Telecom Chairman Wang Xiaochu said Friday in a brief interview on the sidelines of the Communist Party's 18th Party Congress in Beijing that the phone should be by early December if not sooner.
China Unicom Chairman Chang Xiaobing was less certain. "We hope to offer it this year, but what I say doesn't matter," he said on the sidelines of the congress, adding that his company was waiting for the government to grant the remaining licenses for the phone to be released in China.
The report notes that China was responsible for $5.7 billion in revenue for Apple last quarter, 16% of the company's total.
Apple has committed to a rapid rollout of the iPhone 5 to at least 100 countries by the end of the year, despite continuing production issues that have resulted in shortages where the device has already launched. China is typically well behind the lead pack of countries when it comes to new Apple product launches, but the compressed launch schedule for the iPhone 5 means that this gap may only be roughly two months from the first round of launches in the U.S. and other countries.
The introduction of the iPhone 5 in China is also likely to reduce the number of units being siphoned off from other countries by gray market dealers purchasing the devices elsewhere for resale in China. Despite Apple's efforts to limit their ability to soak up supplies, scalpers are still working to secure as many iPhones as possible from retail stores in Hong Kong, the U.S., and other countries to send back to China.