An ad on China Mobile's (CHL +0.5%) site suggests the world' biggest carrier will begin taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5S (AAPL +0.7%) on Thursday, as well as for 4G phones from Samsung and Sony. A company rep confirms 4G pre-orders will start on Thursday, and that services will launch on Dec. 18 (the day of CHL's 4G partner event).
CHL had previously said it was still negotiating with Apple regarding iPhone sales. Analysts have estimated a deal could boost Apple's 2014 EPS by $2-$4 (or perhaps ~5-10%), as they balance CHL's enormous customer base and sales reach with its relatively low ARPUs and surging Chinese demand for cheaper/larger smartphones.
Separately, Gene Munster reports U.S. iPhone 5S supply has finally caught up with demand: Checks at 60 U.S. Apple Stores found all of them were carrying each model of the device. Munster's late November survey had found 90% of SKUs in stock.