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China Telecom close to inking deal with Apple for the CDMA iPhone 4

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In a research note, Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White suggest China Telecom is close to completing a deal with Apple to carry the CDMA iPhone 4. White cites a report on Chinese website NetEase that claims one branch of the wireless operator is already accepting pre-orders for the CDMA iPhone 4. He also refers to a microblog post, reportedly from a China Telecom employee, proclaiming that the first CDMA iPhone call has been placed on its network.

"It is unclear how pre-orders are available before an official announcement has been made by the two companies," White writes, "however, the key takeaway is that the relationship between Apple and China Telecom is clearly moving in the right direction, and we believe that a deal will eventually be announced this year."

A deal with China Telecom would help Apple break further into China's telecom market, the largest in the world with over 842 million total wireless subscribers. Currently, China Unicom is the sole carrier of the iPhone 4 in China and is the #2 carrier in the Asian country with 167 million wireless subscribers. China Telecom comes in third place with 90 million subscribers. This Asian Pacific market, according to White, accounts for almost 58 percent of the world's estimated 550 million CDMA customers. The remaining carrier, government-controlled China Mobile, has a whopping 584 million subscribers and is rumored to be negotiating with Apple to develop an iPhone compatible with the carrier's future TD-LTE network.

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