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iPhone markets expand around the world

/ Source: The Associated Press

Switzerland's leading telecommunications company has signed with Apple to carry the iPhone later this year, making the multimedia gadget available in one more country as Apple prepares a new version with a speedier Internet connection.

Swisscom AG, which has 5.1 million mobile phone subscribers, posted a note on its Web site Wednesday alerting customers that it will carry the iPhone later this year. The Bern, Switzerland-based company offered no further details.

Apple has been snapping up contracts with wireless providers around the world in recent weeks ahead of the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in June in San Francisco, where Chief Executive Steve Jobs is widely expected to announce the next-generation iPhone.

Among those deals are pacts with providers in Latin America, Canada, Italy and the Asia-Pacific region including agreements covering Australia, India and the Philippines.

The iPhone already was being sold through exclusive contracts in the United States, Britain, Germany and France.

Cupterino-based Apple is hustling to meet its goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008, a target some analysts believe can be met only with a new version of the iPhone.

The current model works only on 2.5G networks instead of the faster 3G, or third-generation, cell phone networks, a limitation Jobs said was caused by the large size and heavy power consumption of 3G chips available when the iPhone was being designed.

The difference in performance is the equivalent of using a dial-up Internet connection versus a high-speed broadband connection.

Apple said early this week that it has sold out of the current model of the iPhone in its U.S. and U.K. online stores, a sign that a new edition is imminent. Apple is known for reducing its inventory of a given product ahead of a major upgrade.