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HONG KONG, Oct 8 (Reuters) - China Telecom (0728.HK), the smallest of China's three wireless carriers, may become the second Chinese operator to offer Apple's (AAPL.O) popular iPhone after an exclusive agreement with one of its rivals expires, local media reported on Friday.
China Unicom (0762.HK), the nation's No.2 carrier, is the only Chinese carrier selling the iPhone, but its exclusivity deal with Apple is likely to expire early next year, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a Deutsche Bank analyst note.
That would open up the way for China Telecom, which operates a 3G network based on a standard called CDMA 2000, to offer iPhones, as Apple prepares to launch an iPhone model that runs on that standard, the paper said.
"Although China Telecom management in a recent lunch meeting refused to confirm whether the company would also begin selling a CDMA iPhone in China next quarter, our own channel checks suggest that the company has been in intensive talks with chipset supplier Qualcomm (QCOM.O) and Apple to ensure that this (development) indeed happens," the paper quoted the note as saying.
It said a spokeswoman for China Telecom declined to comment.
Unicom began offering the iPhone 4 in China late last month, and said that pre-orders for the popular phone exceeded 200,000 units in the first two days it became available. [ID:nTOE68Q03F].
China's largest carrier, China Mobile (0941.HK), has said in the past it was in talks with Apple to carry the iPhone, and has also said it was talking to the U.S. company about developing an iPhone that runs on TD-SCDMA, the home-grown standard it is using in its 3G network.
Reporting by Doug Young; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe