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The proliferation of mobile broadband networks will drive growth of the new 3G iPhone from Apple.

Such is the assertion of Macworld, which suggests that broadband connectivity on mobile devices will become an increasingly important selling point as more high-functionality devices enter the market.

Earlier this week, O2 launched its new 3G iPhone, which is available for free on some consumer and business tariffs.

Meanwhile, existing owners of the handset will be able to upgrade their phone via online download service in order to benefit from 3G broadband functionality.

"To me, it happens to be a phone but that's not really why you buy it, you're really buying it to get broadband-enabled applications," analyst Jon Arnold, principal of Toronto-based consulting firm J Arnold & Associates, told Macworld.

Meanwhile, Ronan Dunne, chief executive of O2 in the UK, said the iPhone is already proving remarkably popular among consumers.

The handset is exclusively available on the O2 network.

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