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Tuesday, June 19, 2007, 11:30 am PT (02:30 pm ET)

AT&T stores to close, re-open ahead of iPhone

AT&T, the exclusive wireless carrier for iPhone in the United States, will reportedly shutter its entire national retail chain for approximately two hours on June 29th to prepare for that evening's launch of the eagerly awaited Apple handset.

Specifically, a number of tipsters report that their local AT&T/Cingular wireless stores will temporarily close around 4:00 or 4:30 p.m. and not reopen until 6:00 p.m. — the same time Apple has stated its iPhone will be made available to the purchasing public.

The move will reportedly allow the nation's No. 1 wireless carrier to prevent large mobs from packing the retail locations ahead of the iPhone launch. Additionally, it's said to provide time for staffers to erect elaborate iPhone displays, which will reportedly require their own power supplies and Internet connection.

"[AT&T stores] will be setting up roped queue lines for when they re-open at 6:00 p.m.," said one tipster, who spoke with representatives at his local AT&T retail store in a smaller suburban market in central Pennsylvania. "They then plan on staying open till 10:00 p.m."

Reports from AT&T stores in more populated regions have indicated that those locations would remain open until midnight on the 29th.

Individual AT&T retail store representatives contacted by AppleInsider were unable to provide further details, saying they do not expect formal training and final briefings on the Apple handset until "a day or two" before launch.

On a related note, one AT&T retail employee told AppleInsider that his location recently received a significant shipment of iPhone accessories, none of which were Apple made.

"One was an acrylic clear case/holster, another was a leather case, and the last batch were pink/blue/black/clear silicone gel cases," the employee said. "I don't know if these were sent out nationwide or not but it's a little unusual to receive accessories for a handset 2 weeks before launch."

For its part, Apple has announced plans to market one of its own accessories alongside iPhone — a wireless Bluetooth headset, which recently received the green light from regulators at the FCC.

Pricing details and availability for the Apple accessory have not been released.