A 3G version of Apple's iPhone will be released sometime next year, AT&T's CEO said, according to reports by Bloomberg.com.

At a meeting of the Churchill Club on Wednesday, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said: "You'll have it next year," when asked when a 3G iPhone would appear. AT&T is the exclusive mobile carrier for the iPhone in the US.

Current iPhones connect to EDGE-based networks for intensive data-transmission chores such as browsing and email. EDGE advertises in-the-field download speeds in the 70Kbit/s to 135Kbit/s range, although its technical top end is 384Kbit/s. 3G networks use HSDPA/UMTS technology and boast download speeds between 600Kbit/s and 1.4Mbit/s.

The iPhone's reliance on the much slower EDGE technology was roundly criticised before the smartphone was launched in June, and the issue has come up again as Apple released the iPhone in Europe, where 3G-based cellular networks are much more widespread than in the US. But in September, Apple CEO Steve Jobs made it plain that the iPhone would stick with EDGE for now because of power and battery issues.

"The 3G chip sets are real power hogs," Jobs said at the UK rollout in September. "Our phone has a talk time of eight hours, and that's really important when you want to use [it] for Internet and music. 3G needs to get back up to five-plus hours, something we think we'll see later next year."

Although AT&T's Stephenson essentially confirmed Jobs' prediction, the telecommunications executive wouldn't speculate on how much a 3G iPhone might cost. Bloomberg quoted Stephenson as saying, "[Jobs] will dictate what the price of the phone is."

Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris declined to comment.

While Apple regularly refuses to talk about any unannounced product, Stephenson's loose lips won't materially change current sales of the iPhone, analysts said.

"Some people will now hold off because of Stephenson's comment, but not enough to impact Apple's business," said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray.