In November, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has made an announcement that the company, along with Apple, will release a new, faster iPhone next year, though the comments were never confirmed by Apple.

Industry analysts now believe the phone will not come until at least the second half of the year, however.

Despite the publicity and hype, 3G is still a relatively niche technology and not widely deployed, particularly here in the USA, noted Shaw Wu of American Technology Research.

Even in Europe and Japan, where the technology is more available, network coverage is somewhat spotty, he said.

3G, or 3rd-generaiton networks represent the next wave of cellular voice and data-networks that promise higher speeds and more features. Aside from higher component costs however, 3G's appetite for power would make it prohibitive for an early launch, Wu argues.

Our sources indicate that 3G requires ~35-40% more power to run, he explained. This is a key issue as AAPL seeks to deliver as much battery life as possible on its highly functional iPhone.

Instead the analyst believes that the phone, retrofitted to support the highspeed network would most likely debut in the later part of 2008, when 3G networks have become more widespread, and Apple engineers have had time to sort out power-consumption issues.