China Mobile talks LTE iPhone, inks 4G Clearwire deal

Apple and China Mobile are in talks about a 4G iPhone, it has been revealed, though technological differences mean such a smartphone likely wouldn't work on Verizon or AT&T's LTE networks in the US. "China Mobile and Apple hope to find a solution for close collaboration" carrier chairman Wang Jianzhou told Bloomberg, before suggesting that the Cupertino company sounded enthusiastic about the prospect. "We discussed this issue with Apple. We hope Apple will produce a new iPhone with TD-LTE. We have already got a positive answer from Apple."

Nonetheless, it's not the first time that China Mobile has made promising noises about an LTE iPhone. Back in January, the carrier again suggested that Apple had agreed to make a version of its smartphone using TD-LTE. That may well have been premature, however; the commercial roll-out of the network isn't expected to take place until 2012.

Despite the absence of support for either China Mobile's 3G TD-SCDMA or the upcoming TD-LTE, Wang says adoption of the iPhone among the carrier's subscribers has still been positive. 8.5m already have an iPhone of some sort, he claims, despite being limited to 2G data speeds.

Even if an LTE iPhone 5 arrives sooner rather than later, it would still be of little use to North American Apple fans, at least initially. Neither AT&T nor Verizon are using the TD-LTE standard, rendering the smartphone's high-speed connectivity incompatible.

However, Clearwire – which currently operates a WiMAX network in the US – has announced a new deal with China Mobile to promote the use of 2.5GHz TD-LTE from 2012 onwards, as well as pushing for international roaming on FDD-LTE and 2G/3G networks. If Apple decided to follow their advice and make an iPhone LTE which could roam between TD-LTE and FDD-LTE, that might result in a single high-speed handset of use to subscribers both in China and in the US.

[via GigaOm]