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iPHONE 5 SHOCK! US Apple store 4G kit-fit snapped

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A photograph of LTE equipment being fitted in a US Apple store has reinvigorated rumours that the next iPhone will come with 4G technology built in, for AT&T at least.

The pic was sent to Engadget, with a note saying that the kit being fitted supports LTE in the 700MHz and 3G bands (known in the US as Advanced Wireless Service or AWS), which is where AT&T is planning to deploy its LTE service once it can get the T-Mobile acquisition sorted out.

Not that AT&T needs T-Mobile: it gets $3bn and a chunk of T-Mobile's AWS spectrum even if the deal fails, so there's no reason for it not to start deploying base stations operating in those frequencies, and Apple stores are a perfectly sensible place to be deploying them if the next iPhone is indeed an LTE device.

Despite marketers muddying the waters around 3G and 4G networks, the USA is getting some LTE connectivity these days. In Germany – and elsewhere in Europe – LTE networks are up and running for laptop users sporting connection dongles.

The UK, however, won't get LTE for a while. Assuming the scheduled mega-auction doesn't slip, then it can possibly expect LTE around the end of 2013, or early 2014.

By this time one imagines there will be a few LTE handsets on the market, certainly more than the one or two that are currently available. That is mainly because phones don't really take advantage of the capacity LTE can provide – only laptops consume enough data to make the technology worthwhile – but that's a problem the iPhone 5 could solve.

The image (which has been removed by Engadget at the request of the submitter, but is still knocking around the internet) shows a couple of boxes being fitted behind a desk, and so proves little... Previous rumours suggest the LTE iPhone won't be around until early next year.

So perhaps AT&T is just taking early advantage to expand its network, but it is also possible that Cupertino is planning to get 4G hardware into US hands before Christmas and wants it to work at least until customers leave the store. ®

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