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Wednesday, September 12, 2007, 05:35 am PT (08:35 am ET)

Analyst sees 3G iPhone from Apple by Christmas

A recent deal with a key parts supplier means Apple could have an iPhone with much improved cellular Internet access on the market before the end of the year, according to a new bulletin by market researchers Forward Concepts.

Chief analyst Will Strauss noted that Apple's recently struck, seven-year deal with InterDigital for patent licenses covering present and future iPhone models appeared to confirm his group's beliefs that an Apple handset with third-generation (3G) cellular broadband was already in development and could be ready as soon as the holidays.

This timetable, obtained directly from the report by AppleInsider, contradicts earlier reports on Tuesday which claimed cited the same firm as saying Apple might announce both European carriers and a matching 3G iPhone as early as this week.

The Forward Concepts report noted that semiconductor firm Infineon was likely manufacturing the transceivers needed to enable the faster connection using InterDigital's 3G technology. It was the only company not already obligated to produce the technology for someone else, Strauss said, and was already manufacturing the slower, 2G EDGE hardware used in the iPhone.

Infineon is producing chipsets for "at least two" unnamed companies that rely on UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) technology for cellular Internet links, he added. The format is often used for cellphone Internet access in Europe and can include the faster HSDPA (High Speed Download Packet Access) protocol used in Europe and North America. The analyst warned, however, that there was no guarantee Apple would be ready to launch 3G access on an HSDPA network such as AT&T's so soon after the release of the 2G iPhone.

"There is no doubt that a 3G... version of the iPhone is in the offing," Strauss said. "Whether it also has higher-speed (HSDPA) capability for the next release is uncertain."

While the claim appears to be based on the connections between companies rather than direct sources, the report feeds into speculation about an enhanced iPhone model triggered by an alleged German T-Mobile ad that surfaced this past weekend. The unconfirmed leak pointed to a mid-November release of an iPhone with both HSDPA and UMTS network support for the German provider, which would offer unlimited data plans with connection speeds peaking at 3.6 megabits per second.

The purported ad also referred to the German iPhone as an "XL" model with 16GB of storage and priced it at 499 Euros, suggesting that it would be an addition to the lineup rather than a replacement for the current 8GB version, which sells for $399 US.