According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, China Telecom may be offering the iPhone 5 for sale in China as soon as early December or even late November. Both China Telecom and larger rival China Unicom have been waiting for approval from the Chinese government to begin selling the iPhone 5, and although government officials have been quiet on when such approval may be granted, Chairman Wang Xiaochu of state-controlled China Telecom suggested it could be right around the corner. In a brief interview on Friday, Mr. Wang indicated that he expected it to by early December “if not sooner” although China Unicom Chairman Chang Xiaobing was reportedly less certain, indicating that his company hopes “to offer it this year” and is simply waiting on the government to grant the necessary licenses for the device’s release in China.
The Wall Street Journal report goes on to note that China has become an extremely important part of Apple’s business as a result of the country’s growing middle class, with China sales totalling $5.7 billion in Q4 2012, or 16 percent of the company’s total revenue for that quarter. The release of Apple iPads and iPhones in China has typically lagged behind launches in other countries, possibly due to need to meet demand in the U.S. market along with the tests and licensing restrictions required by the Chinese Government.