China Telecom will begin selling the iPhone 4S beginning March 9, ending China Unicom's three-year run as the device's exclusive seller in China.
The big country's third largest carrier will start taking preorders for the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models beginning March 2, with sales to commence a week later, the company said in a statement. Pricing will start as low as free for 16GB model with a contract. China Telecom had previously announced it would soon begin selling the smartphone but gave only a vague timetable.
The phone is currently available in China only through China Unicom, which has a three-year agreement to offer the device there, beginning with the iPhone 3G in 2009. However, Apple has for months been rumored to be working on deals with China Telecom and China Mobile--the latter being the world's largest wireless carrier with about 650 million subscribers.
China Telecom makes up close to 12 percent of China's total wireless subscriber base, which Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White pegged at 896.2 million in a research note last month. Of that, 73.8 million are 3G subscribers, with China Telecom accounting for a little more than a quarter of that total.
Apple began selling the iPhone 4S in China last month, drawing massive crowds there and sparking a small riot in Beijing after the company announced it would not be selling the device on its pre-announced launch.