Apple and China Mobile have announced a long-anticipated deal to bring the iPhone to the world's biggest phone company in the country with the world's most mobile phone users

The California-based firm's agreement with the state-owned Chinese company could add billions of dollars to its revenues.

It will also allow Apple to compete more effectively in Asia, where it currently lags behind Samsung and other mobile phone brands.

The iPhone is already available in China through two smaller carriers but Monday's deal ties it to a heftier network.

Apple said its smartphones will be available to China Mobile customers starting in January 2014, while pricing and availability details for the iPhone 5S and 5C lines will be disclosed at a later date.

China Mobile, which has about 760 million customers, will begin registering orders for iPhone from December 25.

Respect for China

Although Apple did not disclose financial terms of the agreement, its chief executive said China was an extremely important market.

“Apple has enormous respect for China Mobile and we are excited to begin working together.

China is an extremely important market for Apple and our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world's largest network,” said chief executive Tim Cook.

“iPhone customers in China are an enthusiastic and rapidly growing group, and we can’t think of a better way to welcome in the Chinese New Year than getting an iPhone into the hands of every China Mobile customer who wants one.”

Apple dominates in Europe and the US but it has struggled to capture the Chinese market. 

Phones using Google’s Android operating system are keenly priced, with some Chinese smartphone manufacturers selling their devices for less than $100.

Apple currently lists the iPhone 5C at $739, and the 5S at $871, although prices will be different for China Mobile customers. 

Source: Agencies