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Apple, China Mobile said to have finally struck iPhone deal

New partners are expected to unveil the handset on the world's largest wireless carrier around December 18, sources tell The Wall Street Journal.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple has reached a long-awaited deal with China Mobile to offer the iPhone on the world's largest wireless carrier, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The rollout of the iPhone on China Mobile, which has nearly 760 million customers, is expected around December 18, sources told the newspaper. While the iPhone is currently offered by China Unicom and China Telecom, Apple has been courting China Mobile for years, seeking the vast number of new customers such a deal would create.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

Xinhua, China's official state news agency, quietly reported last month that the iPhone would "officially" launch on China Mobile's network on December 18, coinciding with the debut of 4G LTE service on wireless carriers in China.

Apple was granted a government license to operate on China Mobile's network in August, and an Apple job posting in October sought an engineer with extensive knowledge of TD-SCDMA, the communications protocol used exclusively by China Mobile, leading many to believe an iPhone launch was imminent.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has visited China twice this year, meeting with China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua as recently as July. During a press conference in August, Xi said discussions with Apple were "ongoing," focusing on "commercial details and technology issues."