We had seen reports that Apple might be working on delivering a 4G-enabled iPhone 5 but today that rumour has been given a significant “boost” after a China Unicom executive confirmed that the next-generation smartphone will support HSPA+ “4G” technology, providing handset owners with data speed of up to 21Mbps, reports Macpost.

Japanese tech site PC Watch snapped a photo of an accompanying slide, noting:

Research vice president of China Unicom, Huan Wenliang, told iPhone 5 will support W-CDMA based high-speed data transfer standard HSPA Evolution “HSPA+” (21Mbps) at keynote speech in Macworld Asia 2011.

Whilst it might not be true 4G, the inclusion of HSPA+ technology would ensure customers worldwide would be able to make use of the improved speeds, with many carriers in North America, Europe and other regions working boost their infrastructure to provide improved service to their customers.

china unicom iphone 5 hspa plus 520x419 iPhone 5 to be HSPA+ 4G enabled, according to China Unicom

Apple may also be sure not to limit itself on relatively “new” technologies that have not gained widespread adoption; for example, U.S carriers have already begun rolling out their own 4G frequencies, ensuring that Apple would need to pick a carrier instead of offering it to a wide range of customers. The UK, for example, doesn’t even have a 4G network available to consumers, let alone carriers that can offer an iPhone that supports it.

Earlier reports stated that Apple CEO Tim Cook (then COO) visited China Mobile in June, increasing speculation that the Cupertino-based company was in negotiations with China’s largest telecommunications operator about the release of the next generation iPhone or a prospective TD-LTE iPhone on the network. Whilst no deal has been signed, it is thought that China Mobile will offer the iPhone 5 next year.