Apple in China: 2 Down, 1 To Go

Well, that was quick.

Not even a full day after discussing the possibility of China's No. 3 carrier, China Telecom (NYS: CHA) , getting its hands on Apple's (NAS: AAPL) latest and greatest iPhone 4S within a matter of months, the carrier has now announced just that. China Telecom subsidiary Beijing Telecom just revealed that it plans on launching a CDMA version of the iPhone 4S as soon as February, which officially kicks off tomorrow.

No pricing details were mentioned, but the device's debut on the carrier is pegged "by the end of February, or at the beginning of March." The iPhone has now cleared all three regulatory hurdles to launch on China Telecom.

The first was cleared earlier this month, inching Apple closer to dominating China, followed shortly by the Telecommunications Equipment and Certification Center's sign off. The third and final clearance was met just yesterday, evidence of how quickly the carrier is moving to get the iPhone up and running on its network.

China Telecom has been bleeding subscribers to No. 2 China Unicom (NYS: CHU) , whose current iPhone exclusivity resembles the one AT&T enjoyed here initially. China Unicom has seen the fastest 3G-user growth in the country, ending 2011 with over 40 million subscribers.

Both carriers still lag top dog China Mobile (NYS: CHL) , which boasts 51.2 million 3G subscribers, while China Telecom has but 36.3 million.

The iPhone 4S launched in the nation just a couple of weeks ago, and the event didn't go all that well, with rioters, scalpers, and egg-throwers on the scene. Apple has since implemented a new lottery system for iPhone reservations in Hong Kong to battle ambitious scalpers, who use automated systems to snap up all reservations and then hire migrant workers, who are transported in from afar, to stand in line to do the actual waiting.

Adding another carrier should hopefully alleviate some of the retail strain through expanded distribution. Now there's just a single obstacle left.

Two down, one to go. Next stop, China Mobile.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of Apple and AT&T, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned.Click hereto see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and China Mobile.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of China Mobile and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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