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Apple, China Mobile: Can You Hear Me Now?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) deal with China Mobile (CHL) to officially bring the iPhone to the largest cellular network in the world is almost done. That should make investors, including Carl Icahn, very happy.

China's official state news agency, Xinhua, announced China will start commercial use of the 4G network and services starting Dec. 18, bringing high-speed Internet access, data and advanced smartphones to the world's most populous country. China Mobile will also officially start using 4G on that day, allowing the company's more than 700 million users to begin using the high-speed network.

The new network will roll out first in Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing. Shanghai, which is building its own 4G network, will launch later.

This is welcome news for Apple shareholders, as the tech giant and China Mobile have been in advanced negotiations for some time now. Though no deal has been finalized, the official launch of the 4G network in China is expected to be the last major hurdle between the two companies.

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Apple has already been granted a license to use China Mobile's network. The permit was issued in August, and expires in Feb. 2014, allowing for a deal to get done between now and then. It allows Apple to use China Mobile's 4G TD-LTE network, 3G TD-SCDMA network, and its GSM network.

In August, China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua was optimistic about a deal between his company and the iconic iPhone maker, saying the two sides are "actively negotiating." He noted that there are some "commercial and technology issues that need time to resolve." This official 4G network launch appears to be one of the "issues" he was talking about.

At the end of June, China Mobile had 740 million customers, 137.9 million of them being 3G users. That's the segment Apple is targeting, as they use data, and are less price sensitive than other customers. It's thought that there are already as many as 10 million iPhones on the network, though the world's largest carrier doesn't officially support it yet.

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