3G iPhone in Early 2008?

Analysts are now expecting a faster 3G Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone to arrive early in 2008 but are divided on whether the device will first be launched in the U.S. or Europe.

Since the iPhone's launch in June, there has been much speculation on when a faster 3G version will arrive. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s current iPhones run on the carrier's Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (EDGE) network, which has average data transfer speeds of around 100 kbit/s. Analysts, however, expect that a new version would run over a High-Speed Pack Access (HSPA) upgrade that would ramp speeds to 500 kbit/s or more, addressing one of the chief complaints about the phone's performance from early users.

An AT&T spokesperson tells Unstrung that the carrier isn't commenting on future plans beyond its 4GB and 8GB phones. Apple, meanwhile, didn't return calls for comment.

Nonetheless, analysts expect that early 2008 is the likely date for a 3G rollout.

Most expect that rumored European suitors such as mmO2 plc (NYSE/London: OOM), T-Mobile International AG , or Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), would get first crack at the 3G phone. (See Report: Apple Picks Euro iPhone Partners.)

"I believe it makes much more sense for Apple to give the 3G iPhone to its European carriers before it lets AT&T have it," says Carmi Levy at AR Communications Inc. "Its obvious that anything less than full 3G would be unacceptable in any European market, so they’ll be getting the faster iPhones long before Americans do."

Albert Lin at American Technology Research , however, believes that AT&T will take the 3G biscuit. "I think AT&T is the odds-on favorite for the debut," he says. "They have a multi-year contract in place and are the largest carrier in Apple's most powerful market. AT&T is also on the verge of overtaking European and Asian rivals in network speed with much more comprehensive HSDPA deployment."

Meanwhile, a source tells Unstrung that Apple is nailing down the final 3G specification that will power the faster radio transmissions, deciding between a Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) or Infineon Technologies AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: IFX) chipset. Qualcomm is said to be "way in the lead."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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