Apple and China Mobile have announced a multi-year deal that will bring the iPhone to the world’s largest carrier for the first time. Beginning Jan. 17, China Mobile’s 780 million subscribers will have a chance to purchase the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. Preregistration from the company’s official website begins on Wednesday, Dec. 25.

In announcing the news, Apple CEO Tim Cook notes:

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 …

… 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 has over 1.2 million 2G/GSM, 3G/TD-SCDMA, 4G/TD-LTE base stations and over 4.2 million Wi-Fi access points. By the end of 2013, the company’s 4G services will be available in 16 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. By the end of next year, China Mobile plans to complete the rollout of more than 500,000 4G base stations, which will cover more than 340 cities with 4G service.

According to Xi Guohua, the chairman of China Mobile:

Apple’s iPhone is very much loved by millions of customers around the world. 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.

An Apple-China Mobile iPhone deal has long been rumored. That deal, however, looked somewhat in jeopardy as late as Friday, Dec. 20 — at least according to one analyst.

As Joe White first reported, KGI Securities’ Ming Chi-Kuo said “We believe that weak sales of iPhone 5c may trigger a re-negotiation of the Apple-China Mobile partnership. However, the indications are that the deal is nearing an end. While recent market speculation calls for the deal to boost 1Q14 iPhone shipments to 45–50mn units, we think this is overly optimistic.”

Details about today’s deal have not been announced. Pricing and availability of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c for China Mobile will be available at a later date.