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Rumor: iPhone 5 supports HSPA+ '4G'

Less than one week before Apple's announcement of a new iPhone or two, Japanese blog Macotakara has published a photo of a slide shown by China Unicom during a presentation at Macworld Asia. What's on the slide? Notes about an 'iPhone 5' to be delivered in 2011 that supports the HSPA+ '4G' mobile network standard.

HSPA+ is not true 4G -- LTE (3GPP Long Term Evolution) is. In the USA, AT&T advertises their HSPA+ network as 4G, noting that they're upgrading the system to "true" 4G LTE. The company just turned on LTE 4G in five US cities this month; Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas-Ft.Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. However, the HSPA+ network covers most American large population centers, providing maximum theoretical data speeds of up to 21 Mbps. That's about three times the theoretical max speed for the current HSPA 3G network.

Verizon does not have an interim network, but supports 'true' LTE 4G, so an HSPA+ iPhone would not work on their network. T-Mobile USA, which does not currently carry the iPhone, has an upgraded HSPA+ network that supports maximum data speeds up to 42 Mbps and coverage in 25 US cities. Sprint, the company expected to be the next iPhone carrier, is moving directly to LTE 4G through a deal with the controversial LightSquared.

The photo (a portion of which is shown above) was taken by a blogger for Japanese website PC Watch, and shows the evolution of the iPhone on the China Unicom network over the years.