HONG KONG, Dec 5 (Reuters) - China Mobile Ltd, the country's largest mobile operator, has signed a long-awaited deal with Apple Inc to offer iPhones on its network, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing an anonymous source familiar with the matter.
The news comes a day after China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued 4G licenses to China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom in another widely expected move.
The rollout of iPhones by the world's largest mobile carrier by users, with more than 700 million subscribers, is expected to start around the time of a Dec. 18 China Mobile conference in the southern city of Guangzhou, according to two people familiar with the carrier's plans, the newspaper reported.
Officials with Apple and China Mobile declined to comment.
China Mobile is one of the world's last major carriers that does not offer the iPhone. The company has trailed behind its smaller rivals in attracting users to its home-grown 3G standard due to its poorer network service.
At 0200 GMT, China Mobile shares in Hong Kong were up 1 percent, while smaller rivals China Unicom was up 1.3 percent and China Telecom inched up 0.4 percent.