Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

News about Apple and China Mobile, but not news of a deal

September 11, 2013: 10:51 AM ET

If it's going to happen, it may have to be on the big carrier's terms and timing.

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iPhone 5C.

FORTUNE -- So high were the expectations that China Mobile (CHL) was about to announce a deal with Apple (AAPL) to sell the latest crop of iPhones that news that it would be made overnight Tuesday made it into several analysts' reports.

The marriage of the world's largest mobile carrier (740 million subscribers) and the maker of China's favorite luxury-brand smartphones had been rumored for years, but never consummated.

One popular theory was that it would happenĀ at the Wednesday 10 a.m. (China time) press conference where Apple's iPhone 5S/5C event was scheduled to be rebroadcast in Beijing -- a theory Apple took pains to shoot down.

It didn't happen at the rebroadcast.

What did happen Wednesday was that China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) approved use of the TD-LTE band -- a bandĀ the new iPhones support -- by China Mobile and the other two major Chinese carriers, China Telecom (CHA) and China Unicom (CHU).

It was first time all three of China's big carriers had been given the technical green light to carry Apple's smartphones.

It was a necessary step before the deal that investors have been waiting for could be officially announced. But it was not the deal itself.

Apple has already said that it will be selling its new iPhones in China starting Sept. 20 -- the first time China will get new models the same day (or rather 12 hours before) they go on sale in the U.S.

Whether or not China Mobile will be selling them that day is a decision that seems to be in China Mobile's hands, not Apple's.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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