We've said it before and we'll say it again - the iPhone will come to Asia before long for sure, but it'll require Apple to give it a boost by creating a 3G version before networks in the Far East will be able to sell it.

That now appears closer than ever after reliable sources in Japan - the world's second largest national economy, after all - spilled the beans on negotiations taking place there between Steve Jobs and two of the country's mobile operators.

DoCoMo or Softbank?

Word on the street has Apple in talks with NTT DoCoMo, the biggest network in terms of subscribers, and Softbank Mobile, the third biggest in Japan, over the terms of any deal. While there's little doubt DoCoMo is favourite - 53 million customers to Softbank's 17 million - the smaller firm could yet pull a swift one and surprise us all.

The key to the talks will inevitably be Apple's business model, wherein it reaps a chunk of whatever iPhone users spend each and every month on top of whatever the hardware itself costs.

Unless DoCoMo suddenly finds itself haemorrhaging subscribers in the next few weeks, it's unlikely to see much value in mortgaging its soul for the shiny bauble. A more likely scenario sees Softbank agreeing to the revenue sharing in return for the cachet of an exclusive iPhone deal that will draw the young customers it craves.

CDMA model coming

Recent aggressive marketing resulting in explosive growth for the network formerly known as Vodafone Japan tells us this is where the smart money is, but it's never wise to second guess Apple, of course. None of the firms concerned was prepared to comment today.

Wherever the iPhone ends up in Japan, it means one thing - it has to be a 3G model, as there simply is no GSM network in the country. Suggestions of a new model with a CDMA chip of some sort appearing late in 2008 suddenly seem so much more believable.