A recent Apple job posting for an engineer to work in China suggests that the company is moving closer to launching the iPhone on the world's largest mobile carrier.
The posting, first spotted by Bloomberg, seeks an engineer with extensive knowledge of TD-SCDMA, the communications protocol used exclusively by China Mobile. One of the duties of the engineer will be to "support and drive the carrier approval of mobile phones," according to the job posting:
As the manager for Greater China, this role will be responsible for the overall management of the technical interface to all carriers in the Greater China region. This includes obtaining approvals for all Apple hardware and software, supporting carriers with new technology trials, managing carrier reported technical issues, tracking carrier roadmaps and supporting senior level engineering meetings.
The iPhone is currently offered by China Unicom and China Telecom. But support from China Mobile, which has about 745 million customers, would open up a vast number of new customers for Apple. Although Apple CEO Tim Cook has visited China twice this year, meeting with China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua as recently as July, no deal has yet been announced.
During a press conference in August, Xi said discussions with Apple were "ongoing," focusing on "commercial details and technology issues." One of those issues may be China Mobile's TD-SCDMA network, which the iPhone does not currently support.
However, four smartphones supporting a TD-LTE network recently won approval by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. While the iPhone was not among the four announced, sources inside the MIIT told Phone Arena last month that the iPhone 5S was approved.
CNET has contacted Apple for comment and will update this report when we learn more.