China Unicom, China's No.2 mobile carrier, said on Friday it had sealed a deal to sell the wildly popular iPhone in China, giving iPhone maker Apple access to the world's largest mobile market.

Unicom's announcement of the three-year deal ends months of speculation about a tie-up with Apple, which has been trying to bring the iPhone to some of China's nearly 700 million mobile subscribers.

Unicom said the iPhone would be available for sale in China starting in the fourth-quarter.

Unicom made the announcement as it said its profit in the first half of the year fell 45 percent to 6.62 billion yuan ($969 million) from 12.09 billion yuan. Seven analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a profit of 6.2 billion yuan.

($=6.83 yuan)

(Reporting by Kirby Chien; Editing by Chris Lewis)