(Reuters) -- China Telecom, the smallest of the country's three carriers, said Tuesday it had signed an agreement with Apple Inc to sell iPhones in China, the world's largest mobile phone market.

China Telecom said in a statement it would take applications for the iPhone 4S online from March 2 and aimed to commence sales on March 9.

The agreement breaks China Unicom's previously exclusive right to sell the iconic Apple smartphone in China.

China, the world's largest mobile phone market, saw a 1.2 percent monthly increase in total number of mobile subscribers to 987.58 million in January, data from the country's three telecom operators showed on Monday.

(Reporting by Donny Kwok and Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)