This seems moderately unbelievable, except of course for the fact that they're currently suing T-Mobile in Germany over rights to the iPhone. Although nobody really seems sure what the basis for the lawsuit actually is, it does tie in nicely with the new rumour, which of course could be the point, it now seems sort of believable, whereas it wouldn't have been before that.
So why are Vodafone suing T-Mobile, and why just in Germany? What about the other markets with exclusivity deals like the UK and France?
Update: Apple Insider have some details of the law suit. It looks like the courts, at least at the moment, agree with Vodafone that it's illegal for the handset to be sold locked with a two year contract in Germany. Unfortunately, a Vodafone spokesman has apparently told the Wall Street Journal that,
We're not taking any plans to replicate these actions anywhere else, or in the UK. It's a different regulatory environment.So no unlocked handsets here in the UK it seems, although with Apple forced to sell the phone unlocked in both France and now perhaps Germany, you have to expect some sort of legal challenge to the locking on phones in the UK under the restrictions on trade and commerce between E.U. member countries.
Update: A leak from AT&T on the 3G iPhone?