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Apple and China Mobile just announced that they will launch the iPhone on the world’s largest mobile network — China Mobile’s 4G and 3G networks — on Jan. 17.

The two companies said that China Mobile users will be able to pre-register for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c starting Dec. 25. The Apple devices will be available at China Mobile’s huge network of retail stores starting Jan. 17 across mainland China.

“Apple’s iPhone is very much loved by millions of customers around the world,” said Xi Guohua, chairman of China Mobile, in a statement. “We know there are many China Mobile customers and potential new customers who are anxiously awaiting the incredible combination of iPhone on China Mobile’s leading network. We are delighted that iPhone on China Mobile will support our 4G/TD-LTE and 3G/TD-SCDMA networks, providing customers with high-speed mobile service.”

The move is part of Apple’s effort to fend off encroachments of the rival Android mobile operating system from Google, which has been growing at a faster rate than Apple in smartphones. It will also compete against imported iPhones with jailbroken operating systems.

“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 Apple CEO Tim Cook in a statement. “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.”

China Mobile now has over 1.2 million 2G/GSM, 3G/TD-SCDMA, 4G/TD-LTE base stations and over 4.2 million Wi-Fi access points. China Mobile 4G services are available in 16 cities and will cover more than 340 cities by the end of 2014.

Pricing and availability will be available later. China Mobile has more than 760 million customers. 

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