Orange banks on a boost from 3G launch

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The Independent Online

Orange became the latest mobile phone operator to launch its third generation (3G) services yesterday, following Vodafone and 3, the Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary.

Orange became the latest mobile phone operator to launch its third generation (3G) services yesterday, following Vodafone and 3, the Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary.

It is offering four handsets to UK customers and hopes to have a customer base of 1.5- 2 million customers by 2007 which it expects will boost its average revenue per user by 10-20 per cent.

Having spent £4bn acquiring its 3G licence from the British government the company yesterday refused to say how much it had spent on bringing the long-awaited service to fruition.

Like all its rivals, Orange has had to wait for several years to launch its more advanced 3G services because of a lack of handsets and slow network builds.

Orange, owned by France Telecom, has decided to give away free data downloads for people signing up to its new service before the end of January but is not as competitive as rivals, such as 3, on its voice tariffs.

Its cheapest monthly tariff of £30 offers 200 voice-call minutes a month across all networks including calls to fixed-line numbers, compared with 500 minutes in the equivalent 3 package.

However there are free downloads equivalent to 60 minutes of film clips, 3,000 mobile internet pages and 20,000 e-mails a month.

Orange said this was to attract "early adopters" who wanted to try out the service without worrying about the costs. It said a large part of the success of 3G services would be from word of mouth recommendations.

Bernard Ghillebaert, the company's UK executive vice president, said: "This is just the start of the 3G evolution. Throughout 2004 we have been making sure the building blocks are in place so that 2005 opens up a new world of mobility for our customers."

Like its rivals, Orange is offering video-calling and entertainment and information services including Sky News, movie clips and music and ringtones from music labels.

However, unlike its main rival Vodafone, Orange will give users the opportunity to use their 3G phones to access the wider internet rather than stick to its own portal. The Orange phones can be used as a modem, allowing them to access the internet using a laptop.

To try to encourage take-up and persuade people to use the service to download the higher margin data content rather than simply use 3G services for voice and text messages, Orange has also launched a 24-hour customer support service. It will also have 2,000 Orange Phone Trainers in its chain of shops.

The company said its 3G network covered 70 per cent of the UK population and users travelling abroad would be able to use the service in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Finland and Austria thanks to roaming agreements with other networks.

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