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O2 to launch iPhone tomorrow?

UK network operators fight to the death for the iPhone

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Apple fan boys may soon discover which UK network provider they must switch to in order to secure an iPhone. An online source has reported that O2 may tomorrow announce a deal with Apple for the much-hyped handset.

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The deal is thought to be announced at a press event taking place tomorrow at Apple's Regent Street store, London, where a selection of industry hacks have been invited to attend, with the exception of yours truly.

O2 is believed to have clinched the deal right at the last minute, with T-Mobile and Vodafone being its closest rivals. However, it's also claimed that O2 may have to share the limelight with Carphone Warehouse, which may have won the rights to be the sole independent retailer for the handset on O2's behalf and could see the network operator forced to pay a revenue share the store.

CW's name has been absent from iPhone stories of late, but it was among the first European names to be associated with the Apple handset, at the time of the iPhone's June launch.

But will it all be worth it for O2? The Guardian newspaper reckons that O2 will have to hand over around 40 per cent of any revenues it makes from customers' use of the iPhone directly to Apple.

The latest news in the ongoing iPhone saga correlates with information gathered by our moles deep within the O2 network, who have already claimed that the iPhone would be announced by the end of this month, to coincide with the end of parent company Telefonica's current financial quarter.

O2 is also believed to be busily upgrading its network to support Edge, the faster-than-GPRS-but-not-3G data technology. This could point to the arrival of the current version of the iPhone - although, sadly, not a UMTS version.

The next stage in Apple's European roll-out of the handset could be to launch the iPhone with network suppliers in each country day-by-day. For example, it's been reported that an iPhone agreement with T-Mobile German could be unveiled on Wednesday and a similar deal with Orange France on Thursday.

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