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Tech powerhouse Apple has announced a long-awaited agreement with the world's largest telco, China Mobile, to offer the iPhone from next month.

Apple's latest iPhones, the iPhone 5s and 5c, will be available on China Mobile starting 17 January, but pricing is yet to be revealed.

"China is an extremely important market for Apple and our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world's largest network," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

China Mobile, which has about 760 million customers, will begin registering orders for iPhone from 25 December, according to the official China Mobile account on the Sina-Weibo micro-blogging service.

Pricing and availability details for the iPhone 5S and 5C lines will be disclosed at a later date, the companies said in a statement.

Shipments of iPhones in China grew 32% year-on-year for the third quarter of 2013 but this was about half of China's Lenovo Group Ltd, which had the next slowest growth at 64% year-on-year, Reuters reports.

Samsung was China's largest player last quarter with a 21% market share, followed by Lenovo with 13%. Local company Yulong Computer Telecommunication had 11% market share while Huawei with 9% took the third and fourth placesr respectively.

China is of high importance for phone manufacturers given its extremely fast-growing economy and increase in technology take-up.

China issued 4G licenses in December to three local carriers including China Telecom, which has been deploying base stations across the country using a 4G technology known as LTE TDD (Long-Term Evolution Time Division Duplex). Apple had been unwilling previously to support China Telecom’s TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) 3G network technology, but, as reported by PC World, on Sunday it announced that the iPhones would run on both the 4G TD-LTE and the 3G TD-SCDMA networks.

China Mobile could gain 17 million new iPhone activations in 2014 alone, according to research firm Forrester - more than double the 16.8 million iPhones Apple sold in mainland China for the 12 months ended September.

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David Swan

David Swan is a tech journalist from Melbourne and is iTWire's Associate Editor. Having started off as a games reviewer at the age of 14, he now has a degree in Journalism from RMIT (with Honours) and owns basically every gadget under the sun. He also writes for Junkee and Fasterlouder. You can email him at david.swan@itwire.com or follow him at twitter.com/mrdavidswan

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