The carrier's two domestic rivals, China Unicom and China Telecom, already offer the iPhone to their subscribers. China Unicom began selling the iPhone in 2009; China Telecom began doing so in March of this year.
However, China Mobile has, until now, used the TD-SCDMA standard which Apple not chosen to support. Later this year, though, China Mobile's LTE network will light up.
It's unclear if technological issues alone have kept China Mobile and Apple apart, though. Despite ongoing negotiations, China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua said at a shareholder meeting in Hong Kong on Wednesday that the company can’t predict if an agreement will be reached this year or not.
China Mobile had close to 650 million subscribers at the end of last year, according to a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange. Although the device is not officially supported on their network, in March China Mobile said that it had 15 million iPhone users on its network. All of these users have to be truly in love with the device, as an iPhone on China Mobile's network runs on 2G.
As a whole, China had more than one billion mobile phone users at the end of February.