"Steve Jobs and I hope the iPhone will enter China as soon as possible," said Wang Jianzhou, China Mobile's CEO, on the sidelines of the ITU Telecom Asia 2008 exhibition in Bangkok Tuesday. "We are discussing this issue but we do not have an agreement."
It's not clear what's holding back an agreement. Wang declined further comment, citing a non-disclosure agreement with Apple.
Last November, Wang said he didn't like the revenue sharing model that went along with the iPhone.
China Mobile would be a good catch for Apple. The Chinese company boasted over 420 million subscribers at the end of July, making it the largest mobile service provider in the world.
China Mobile is also a member of Google's Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of technology and service companies that will develop products based on Google's Android mobile phone platform, which will be a competitor for the iPhone.
The first Android-based phones are expected on world markets within the next few months.
But Apple has other choices in China, and may opt to work with a smaller Chinese mobile service operator willing to provide better terms in return for the news coverage and subscribers that come along with iPhone sales.
For now, Chinese users who want an iPhone have to smuggle them into the country and break the security meant to tie them to a specific service provider. Analysts estimate that there are already over 800,000 iPhones in use throughout China.