An Italian mobile operator has signed the world's first non-exclusive deal to distribute Apple's iPhone, according to the Rome daily newspaper La Repubblica. Telecom Italia will offer the planned 3G iPhone in Italy, the paper reported.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has decided to modify the company's distribution strategy of choosing an exclusive partner in each national market and taking a share of the operator's traffic revenue, La Repubblica said. Telecom Italia CEO Franco Bernabe signed an agreement at the beginning of April, the newspaper said.

However, Telecom Italia declined to comment on the report.

"We haven't been commenting and I can't tell you when we might be likely to do so," a Telecom Italia spokeswoman said.

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The agreement provides for the distribution of iPhones compatible with 3G networks based on the European UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) standard, and the handsets will be sold at a higher price than elsewhere to compensate for the absence of revenue sharing, La Repubblica said. While the agreement is nonexclusive, Telecom Italia has the 3G technology ready immediately, giving it an advantage of several months over Italian competitors Vodafone and H3G, the paper said.

The newspaper put the change of direction down to a realisation at Apple that boosting the market share of its Safari browser could be more important than short-term revenue gains from phone sales.

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