Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin has said "virtually every mobile company" is in discussion with Apple about the iPhone, but has refused to discuss details about the handset's distribution in Europe.
However, Sarin said the lack of 3G support in the iPhone is a "concern" for European operators. Apple's device uses EDGE (also known as 2.5G) networks in the US for data traffic, but European mobile networks have invested billions in building up their 3G networks and want those networks used.
"The iPhone is clearly a good, software-driven device, but we're concerned about wideband area coverage. 3G (capability) is something we look forward to and hope Apple moves forward to soon," Sarin said, Reuters reported.
Apple has described its choice of EDGE above 3G as being predicated on the power demands imposed by 3G technology, use of which would impact battery life on the sophisticated device.
However, lack of 3G support is emerging as one of the major market inhibitors to widespread adoption of the device, particularly among mobile and tech-savvy Europeans.
Analysts are split on Apple's 3G plans, some expect the iPhone that ships this year in Europe could be 3G-enabled, others don't anticipate a 3G version until March next year.
Apple's European launch plans remain the topic for debate. Vodafone had been expected to clinch the contract on a pan-European basis, but Apple now seems set to favour a country-by-country distribution deal.
It has been widely reported that Apple will shift the iPhone through O2 in the UK and Deutsche Telekom in Germany, and perhaps also through other networks. One industry source told PC Advisor that the iPhone could become available in the UK as early as September.