Reuters: China Telecom plans iPhone launch by end of year

Analyst says deal could be worth $8 billion to $9 billion for Apple

Subscribers to China Telecom may be able to purchase an iPhone by year's end, sources tell Reuters.

If the deal happens, it would be a big boost for China Telecom, which is the smallest of the Asian giant's three wireless providers, trailing market leader China Mobile and No. 2 China Unicom (which began selling the iPhone early last year).

(Also see: Does Google needs China more than China needs Google?)

Oh, and it also wouldn't be bad for Apple, according to Ticonderoga analyst Brian White. In a research note reported by Tech Trader Daily's Tiernan Ray, White ballparked the value of an agreement with China Telecom at between $8 billion and $9 billion.

White's basing his estimate not on the nearly 106 million total China Telecom users, but on the smaller subset of nearly 20 million customers who use 3G.

However, White says:

"[I]f we look at China Telecom’s...entire wireless subscriber base, the opportunity is much larger. For example, if we assumed China Telecom’s entire 3G subscriber base could afford an iPhone, we estimate this represents a $12 billion revenue opportunity for the iPhone. If we assumed China Telecom’s entire subscriber base of 105.7 million users could afford an iPhone, we estimate the iPhone opportunity at $66 billion.

Heady and arguably unrealistic assumptions, to be sure. But given that Apple's revenue for all of fiscal 2010 was $65 billion, you couldn't blame Steve Jobs for daring to dream big.

Shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) were up 2.84, or 0.8 percent, to 356.61 in late Wednesday trading.

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