SaskTel date for iPhone service uncertain

People waiting to buy the latest iPhone from SaskTel may be on hold for a while longer.

Phone company rolling out 3G+ network

People waiting to buy the latest iPhone from SaskTel may be on hold for a while longer.

The Saskatchewan government-owned telephone company announced Tuesday that it will start rolling out its high-speed 3G+ cellular network on Aug. 16.

BlackBerry and Nokia phones will be on the network then, but whether Apple's popular iPhone will be available on that date is still an open question.

Currently, SaskTel's main cellphone competitor, Rogers, sells iPhones in the province but SaskTel doesn't.

SaskTel officials said they're still hammering out a deal with Apple so it can carry the phone, but Apple wants the new network up and running first.

"We're dealing with Bell and Apple on the iPhone and the public information is, the iPhone version 4 is coming to Canada later in July," SaskTel president Robert Watson said. "We'll be working with them to get the iPhone as soon as we can."

However, there are no guarantees yet about exactly when that will be.

That's bad news for Regina's Chris Fiorante, 18, a SaskTel customer who says he's had his eye on the iPhone for a long time.

He was expecting to get one as a high school graduation present two weeks ago, he said, but no such luck.

"I think I've been pretty patient," Fiorante said.

He said he wasn't happy to find out there's still no guarantee about when SaskTel iPhones will be available.

"That makes me a little upset," he said. "I was expecting it to come out pretty soon, so that rattles me a bit."

SaskTel says its 3G+ network — a step up from regular 3G — will originally be opened to customers in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Weyburn, Yorkton, Swift Current, Prince Albert and most of the connecting highways.

The rest of the province will get 3G+ by the end of the year, according to the company.

The upgrade has cost SaskTel more than $170 million, Watson said.

The company says it will continue to support customers who use its existing CDMA cell network.

The iPhone made a big splash in the smartphone market when it was introduced in the U.S. in 2007. With a touch-screen interface and an ability to use a wide variety of applications, it quickly found favour with customers and millions of the units were sold worldwide.

In April, Watson inadvertently set off a mini-frenzy among technology bloggers when he told the Regina Leader-Post that a new version of the iPhone was coming out. 

The company quickly put out a news release saying Watson was only commenting on information that had been reported publicly and on the internet for several months.

Since then, the new iPhone 4 has been introduced in the United States and other countries, although not in Canada.