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Sprint could sell 4G LTE version of iPhone when Apple makes one

Sprint is opening to selling a 4G LTE version of Apple's iPhone, whenever Apple builds a phone running on the latest cellular technology.

Joe Euteneuer, chief financial officer at the nation's third largest carrier, said Sprint is free to sell a 4G LTE iPhone, but wouldn't say whether Apple was planning on building such a device, according to a Dow Jones Newswire report.

Currently, Sprint doesn't offer LTE service (though it does offer its 4G WiMax service). But the carrier will launch its faster, newer 4G network by about the middle of this year in a handful of cities. Sprint has previously said that it plans to have about 15 devices running on its 4G LTE network by the end of the year.

Sprint's WiMax network offers users average download speeds of about 3 to 6 megabytes per second, which is about four times faster than 3G service. LTE, which uses different cellular-tower and in-phone-chip technology, offers higher top speeds than WiMax and the 4G HSPA that T-Mobile uses.

LTE networks promise speeds that can be as much as 10 times faster than 3G service, with theoretical peaks of 300 megabytes per second for downloads and 75 megabytes per second for uploads. Among the nation's four largest carriers, only AT&T and Verizon currently have LTE networks up and running.

According to the Dow Jones report, Euteneuer also said that Sprint's contract with Apple to sell iPhones is similar to that of AT&T and Verizon's.

Traditionally, Apple has launched new iPhones in the summer and fall, and although the tech giant hasn't said when or if a new iPhone is planned for this year (4G LTE or otherwise), the Sprint executive said it would be ready for a 4G LTE iPhone if one arrives.

"If you make the assumption that they launch a device at a similar time that they did last year, you're basically done with the major markets," Euteneuer said of Sprint's 4G LTE build-out plans, according to the report.

The executive, who made the comments at a conference of Sprint investors, said Sprint's 4G LTE build-out would quickly grow to rival AT&T and Verizon's LTE networks. "I don't think we are really disadvantaged at all," he said.

Sprint's contract with Apple reportedly has the carrier purchasing at least 30.5 million iPhones from Apple at a cost of about $20 billion over the next four years.

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