NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel will start selling the next version of the Apple Inc iPhone in mid-October, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal that cited unnamed sources.

This would make Sprint the third U.S. operator to become a cellphone distributor for Apple. AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless already sell the iPhone 4.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T will also start selling the device -- dubbed the iPhone 5 -- in mid-October, according to the story. Sprint declined comment and an Apple spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Since Verizon and Sprint use the same network technology, analysts had speculated that it made sense for Apple to widen its distribution to Sprint. Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc.

Sprint shares rose 10 percent to $3.58 on the New York Stock Exchange after the news.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)