State-controlled China Telecom, the country's third-largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, and bigger rival China Unicom Ltd. have been awaiting government approval to sell the new smartphone, which Apple released in September in the U.S. and other markets around the world. China's biggest mobile phone company, China Mobile Ltd., doesn't offer the Apple device.
Government officials haven't offered guidance on when the iPhone 5 might win final approval. But China Telecom Chairman Wang Xiaochu said Friday in a brief interview on the sidelines of the Communist Party's 18th Party Congress in Beijing that the phone should be by early December if not sooner.
China Unicom Chairman Chang Xiaobing was less confident that the device would be approved within that timeframe.
"We hope to offer it this year, but what I say doesn't matter," said Xiaobing.