By Peter Blasina

After months of speculation about which carriers would deliver Apple’s iPhone to the Australian marketplace, Telstra has today revealed that the country’s biggest telco plans to deliver the iPhone on its Next G (850 MHz) network, from July 11.

3G’s faster data speeds delivers an important performance enhancement to the new iPhone and means that it will have speeds as good if not better than some desktop broadband connections. It will mean that functions like internet browsing, global positioning, music and movie downloads, MMS transfers and even email will happen at speeds that Australians have come to expect from their mobile phone.

The joint Telstra and Apple statement makes no mention of whether the device would operate at 3.6Mbps or 7.2Mbps. The current theoretical download speed of the Next G network is 7.2Mbs but promised upgrades could see this reach 42Mbs by the end of the year, making it the fastest 3G network in Australia, and the world, according to Telstra. As such, Next G could potentially be the most compelling local platform for the forthcoming 3G iPhone, which was announced earlier this month at the Worldwide Developers Conference 2008 in San Francisco by Apple CEO, Steve Jobs.

Pricing and availability

Telstra’s also announced some details on its pricing plans. According to Telstra prices start at $279 for the 8 gig model and on a $30 plan, while the 16GB will be sold for $399. On the $80 plan there will be no cost on 8GB iPhone, while on $100 plans either the 8GB or the 16GB will be at no cost. The contract length on plans will be 24 months.

The press release makes no mention of data pricing but does reveal that free WiFi access will be available to Telstra iPhone customers at Telstra hotspots.

Customers can find further information and register their interest in iPhone 3G by visiting a nearby Telstra Shop, calling 1800iPhone or going to www.telstra.com/iphone

Other carriers

With the 2.5G version of the iPhone having sold more than 6 million units in the 12 months it’s been on sale in the US, all local carriers are looking at the new handset to drive people to their networks and plump up revenues from mobile content services. Optus and Vodafone announced plans to support the 3G iPhone back in May, but GadgetGuy.com.au’s source claims Telstra believed that Next G’s coverage to 99 per cent of the population would be a determining factor for many customers when it comes to making a decision about where to buy.

“A key pillar in the design and functioning of the iPhone has always been its web-based applications. However, the slower speed of the AT&T’s US network has been an issue and the iPhone has not really been able to deliver on the promise of ‘the Internet in your pocket’. With Next G’s superior performance, the iPhone will be able to deliver enhanced functionality and particularly tremendous performance,” according to the source.

“The iPhone up until now has been restricted by virtue of that fact that it operated at 2.5G speeds. This made one of its key features – internet access – painfully slow. It should be a major driver for many Australian customers, looking for a stylish smart phone,” says the source.

Vodafone and Optus have both announced that they will also be selling the 3G iPhone once it is released by Apple in Australia on 11 July. Additionally, a recently announced deal between Apple and Hutchison Whampoa to sell the iPhone in Hong Kong will most likely carry through to 3 Mobile in Australia. 3 should also be offering its customers the iPhone by the end of the month – 3 have also recently had customers petition Apple to allow it to add the iPhone to their network.

Up until this announcement, the iPhone had been locked to a single provider (AT&T in the US) and various other providers in European countries. Australia is the first country where the restrictions have been lifted, with ‘unlocked’ versions of the iPhone available to customers.