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LONDON (Reuters) - Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L) said on Thursday it was concerned that the current model of iPhone mobile phones -- Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) latest "killer" gadget -- did not operate on fast 3G networks.
Amid speculation that Apple, the innovative U.S. consumer electronics group, is close to handing a deal to Vodafone's rivals to bring iPhones to European shores, the mobile phone giant said only any deal needed to make sense for shareholders.
"It's clearly a good, software-driven device, but we're concerned about wideband area coverage so that 3G (third-generation) or HSDPA (upgraded 3G) connectivity with the iPhone is something that we look forward to.
"Every product, every alterative, every choice here has a price and we just have to be conscious of what it is that we're doing for our customers and our shareholders," Sarin told a conference call after the company posted strong quarterly numbers.
Analysts expected Vodafone to be in prime position to secure an exclusive, pan-European deal to sell iPhones, which have flown off the shelves in the United States, but warned that Apple was a tough negotiator and liked to dictate terms.
Apple, whose iPhones operate over slower 2.5 generation networks in the United States, is not expected to bring out a 3G version until March 2008, analysts say. And Vodafone has invested heavily in its 3G network and services.
IPhones, which combine Apple's hugely-popular iPod digital music player, a video player and Web browser into a sleek, touch screen device, went on sale in the U.S. in June to the delight of die-hard Apple fans.
Sarin said virtually every mobile company was having a conversation with Apple, but that he could not comment further on any potential decision or announcement.