China Mobile employees say iPhone 5 launch not likely

For years, Apple has been rumored to be working on an iPhone partnership deal with China Mobile. The carrier is the largest in both China, and the world, with more than 660 million subscribers.

China Mobile’s network is already overflowing with unlocked iPhone users, but technology has been standing in the way of an official offering. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to change this year…

The Next Web passes along a report from Sina Tech, who spoke with a number of China Mobile employees that have apparently not heard a peep regarding the carrier getting the new iPhone.

The site also received comments from the carrier’s chairman Xi Guohua on the matter:

“Right now, the biggest constraint is the chip. Non-Qualcomm chips don’t work, and Qualcomm’s development of a new TD-SCDMA chip has some lag. So if you want to know when the China Mobile version of Apple’s iPhone will arrive, ask Qualcomm.”

Essentially, the report wraps up with something like [with a little help from Google Translate] “China Mobile introducing the iPhone 5 this year is not a likely possibility.” So move along.

This is bad news for Apple, who has been struggling to gain traction in China as of late. Recent numbers put its smartphone marketshare somewhere around 10%. And as you can imagine, a China Mobile deal would certainly help its case.

Interestingly enough though, China Unicom, the second largest carrier in China, say they do plan on seeing Apple’s new smartphone by the end of the year. But since it hasn’t properly launched its LTE network (it’s said to still be in testing phase), it won’t be able to take full advantage of the handset.

On that front, a recent report by The Wall Street Journal claims that the new iPhone will support LTE around the world. But it also noted that this didn’t mean that it would work with all carriers.

Hopefully we’ll find out more on Wednesday. Stay tuned.