Updated from 9:20 a.m. EST to provide comments from analyst in the ninth paragraph.
The Wall Street Journal, citing an unnamed source, reports the deal is done, and will be announced on Dec. 18, when China Mobile unveils its 4G network. Earlier this week, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology granted the 4G licenses to China Mobile, as well as China Telecom (CHA) and China Unicom (CHU).
Separately, a China Mobile spokeswoman told Reuters that a deal had not been reached, and that the two companies were still negotiating.
Apple could not be immediately reached for comment for this story.
Earlier this week, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White noted that Apple is really poised to benefit from the announcement of the 4G licensing. "Finally, our research in China over the past year made it very clear to us that an agreement between Apple and China Mobile would need to take place after 4G licenses were issued in China to realize the economics of scale a more global network technology (i.e., TD-LTE can be used outside of China), and this milestone has now been officially reached," White wrote in the note.
White has a "buy" rating with a $777 price target.
Last week, China's official state news agency, Xinhua, reported that China would 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 had 740 million subscribers at the end of June, with 137.9 million of them being 3G users, the demographic Apple is targeting.
China Mobile has 759.3 million subscribers, with 176 million of them being 3G subscribers, the demographic Apple is targeting.
In a separate note, White writes there are likely 35 million to 40 million iPhones already on China Mobile's network, despite there being no official deal between the parties. That doesn't mean Apple won't see a huge tick up in sales, though. "We believe Apple can sell 20 million to 24 million iPhones to China Mobile in calendar year 2014 with an EPS impact of approximately $4.00 at the mid-point of our forecast," White wrote in a note delivered to clients on Thursday.
Shares of Apple were higher in Thursday trading, gaining 1.2% to $571.49.
--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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