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Thursday, June 09, 2011, 08:55 pm PT (11:55 pm ET)

UAE carrier in talks with Apple to sell iPhone 5 later this year

United Arab Emirates-based carrier Etisalat is in discussions with Apple to offer the "iPhone 5" later this year, according to a company executive.

Etisalat Chief Corporate Communication Officer Ali Al Ahmad acknowledged that his company is negotiating with Apple to carry the iPhone 5, even as the carrier begins rolling out its fourth-generation Long Term Evolution network later this year, Dubai's Gulf News reports.

"We are in talks with most smartphone manufacturers including Apple on the rollout of the 4G handset, iPhone 5 later this year. As the first telecom organisation to roll out the 4G network, LTE, in the Middle East, we have already started talking to them for the handsets and chipsets in them."

It's not immediately clear whether Al Ahmad is suggesting that the iPhone 5 will support Etisalat's LTE network, but the launch of an LTE iPhone is widely believed to have been pushed to 2012.

In the U.S., Verizon launched its LTE network late last year, while AT&T has plans to begin rolling out LTE by the end of this year. Verizon boasts real-world LTE data rates of between 5Mbps and 12Mbps downstream and 2Mbps to 5Mbps upstream. During a recent demo, AT&T showed off its LTE network running at supposed real-world download speeds of 28.87 Mbps and 10.4 Mbps for uploads.

In the race to reach true "4G" data speeds, wireless companies have scrambled to secure the necessary bandwidth and patents for LTE, sparking interest in a trove of 4G-related patents from the Canadian telecom equipment manufacturer Nortel. Last week, a report revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice has expressed concerns over Apple's interest in the patents. Meanwhile, AT&T claims that its $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA is necessary in order to obtain the required bandwidth for a nationwide LTE network.

Numerous reports have indicated that Apple's next iPhone, alternatively dubbed the iPhone 4GS and the iPhone 5, will arrive "later than usual," possibly in September. The smartphone is expected to receive upgrades in the form of an A5 processor and 8MP camera.

According to another carrier executive, France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard, Apple's next iPhone will be "smaller and thinner" and will feature an even smaller SIM card format.