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China Telecom: Order Your iPhone 5 on Nov 20th, But Don’t Ask When It’ll Arrive

China Telecom (NYSE:CHA; HKG:0728) has said it will start taking orders for Apple’s iPhone 5 on Tuesday, November 20th. But there’s still no set date for when China Telecom users can actually get their hands on an official-channel iPhone 5. The message comes from the official Weibo account of China Telecom’s 3G “e-surfing” division:

None of China’s three mobile telcos have yet set a date for the arrival of the iPhone 5 – though only two of them (China Telecom and China Unicom) are in contention.

China Telecom said last week that it hoped to roll out the phone late November or early December. iPhones and iPads generally hit China long after most other major markets, with a typical delay of three to four months – which is a quarter to a third of the entire product’s life-cycle. Little wonder that so many eager early-adopters are willing to pay premiums from grey-importers who ship in devices (without paying sales tax) from Hong Kong or other countries.

Chinese tech blogs such as Techweb report that China Telecom is preparing one million nano-SIM cards for its own iPhone 5 official launch. The smallest of the three carriers in terms of 3G users, China Telecom has already been handing out free nano-SIM cards to customers who bought grey-import iPhone 5 models from other countries – as have its two other rivals. Clearly the company feels it needs a lot more of those things for its official offerings.

Nano-SIMs are thinner than the micro-SIM cards in earlier iPhone models, so a new card is called for.

Just yesterday we looked at some app analytics that suggested the iPhone 5 already represented 0.1 percent of the smartphones spotted online in China.

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