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O2 offers U.K. iPhone users upgrade path to 3G

Current iPhone users will be able to get a free upgrade to the faster model if they pick an expensive rate plan and sign up for a new 18-month contract.

iPhone users in the U.K. will have an option to upgrade to the new iPhone 3G without paying full price for a new model.

O2, the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the U.K., will offer a free iPhone 3G to customers who opt for one of its high-end rate plans, and a reduced-price iPhone for those who take the midrange plans. Interested customers will have three months following the July 11 introduction of the new iPhone to sign up for the program, which will require a new 18-month contract.

Specifically, the 8GB iPhone 3G will be available for free if O2 customers pick a 45-pound ($87.90) or 75-pound rate plan. Customers can get a free 16GB model if they choose the 75-pound plan. Depending on which one of O2's other plans customers pick, they can get a 8GB model for 99 pounds or the 16GB model for 159 pounds.

It doesn't seem like AT&T is going to offer a similar upgrade path in the U.S. Monday's press conference revealed that AT&T is hiking the cost of its iPhone data plans, but made no allowances for an upgrade path to the new model--other than buying a new one at full price, of course.

That's probably because there are far more iPhone users in the U.S. than in the U.K., and the cost of upgrading the U.K. installed base would be far cheaper than pulling off the same stunt in the U.S.

It will be interesting to see how iPhone 3G upgrades work in the other countries where the first-generation device is available, such as Germany, France, and Ireland. Orange, which will carry the iPhone 3G in Austria, Portugal, Switzerland, and France in July, made no mention of an upgrade path in its press release Monday.