The news somewhat trumps any announcement scheduled by Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the January Macworld conference.
A new version of Apple's iPhone will be introduced in 2008 that is capable of operating on faster 3G cellular networks.
"You'll have it next year," AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson told a group of stockholders and financial analysts at a Wednesday meeting in Santa Clara, Calif.
Currently relegated to AT&T's relatively slow EDGE network, Stephenson said his company will be introducing a version of the phone next year that that will enable users to download from the Internet at a faster rate. High-speed connections for the iPhone had been delayed because, among other reasons, faster speeds eat up too much power from the device's battery.
AT&T's 3G wireless network, currently deployed in 170 metropolitan markets, used UMTS/HSDPA (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems/High Speed Downlink Packet Access) technology. It can provide download speeds of between 400 Kbps and 700 Kbps with bursts to more than 1 Mbps, the company says. AT&T's wireless network uses the GSM standard, which the company says is used by more than 2.6 billion people worldwide -- representing more than 85% of the world's wireless users.
Stephenson, who has linked AT&T's future strongly to the iPhone ever since he took over the chief executive position earlier this year, said Apple CEO Steve Jobs will "dictate what the price of the phone" will be.
The news somewhat trumps any announcement scheduled by Jobs at the January Macworld conference in San Francisco. Jobs, who is famous for keeping big announcements secret, is expected to mention the iPhone's progress during his keynote. However, exact details of future iPhone designs have not been disclosed. Apple has not commented publicly on Stephenson's revelation.
Meanwhile, Stephenson also appeared to be underwhelmed by the announcement earlier this week by competitor Verizon Wireless that it would open its network next year for use by software and hardware companies. "We are probably one of the most open networks in the world, not just the U.S.," Stephenson said.
In recent weeks, mobile phone service providers and a wide assortment of hardware and software providers have been rushing to open their networks including the Google-led Open Handset Alliance and the European Commission's effort to open up GSM networks in Europe.
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