iPhone will be 3G-enabled when it launches in Europe

4 Jul 2007

Apple’s latest departure into mobile, the iPhone, will more than likely be 3G-enabled by the time it launches in Europe later this year and could be timed to coincide with the opening of European iTunes video stores and a follow-up 3G device in the US.

Irish mobile content expert Stephen McCormack, CEO of Wild Wave, speculates that when the much coveted iPhone comes to Europe before Christmas this year it would be a relatively simple matter for Apple to configure the device to be able to handle 3G.

When the 3.5″-sized device launched in the States last week it did so as a 2.75G device, capable of GPRS and EDGE data transmission. The omission of 3G led many in the mobile industry to speculate that it would have limited success in Europe, where 3G is now standard and operators are already providing “over the air” music download services.

However, McCormack believes that Apple could have gone with 3G from day one and that it was of political necessity when the company was in negotiations with AT&T to go with the 2.75G option.

“It will be 3G by the time they launch the device in Europe,” he predicts. “When buying the circuit boards in Asia, if buying an actual phone chip, most will offer 3G and Wi-Fi as standard. When Apple was doing the deal with AT&T it is possible it didn’t want to deal with music over the air as it would have created a conflict with AT&T’s existing music download services.

“It is likely the compromise was to allow for building in side loading from iTunes via your PC or Mac rather than downloading via the mobile network.”

McCormack’s Wild Wave Technologies has worked with the local mobile industry to repackage Irish film products for consumption over 3G networks and lately has branched into Asia. The company has been at the spearhead of putting products on the Joost internet TV platform, launched earlier this year by the founders of Skype and Kazaa.

There has been a lot of speculation as to which European operators are most likely to win the rights to distribute the device in Europe and the general consensus is the most likely operators will be Vodafone and T-Mobile.

Germany’s Rheinsche Post has reported that Deutche Telekom is about to announce that its mobile carrier T-Mobile will exclusively offer the device in Germany.

“Without 3G it is like trying to buy a black and white TV,” says McCormack. “The Wi-Fi is there already but on the firmware side it is just a matter of switching it on.

“As soon as Apple launch in Europe it is more than likely there will be a simultaneous 3G device launch in the US,” McCormack believes.

A spokesman for Apple in Ireland said the company does not comment on future product launches.

By John Kennedy