Orange pledges mobile call costs 38% below rivals

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The Independent Online
ORANGE, the national mobile telephone network launched yesterday by Hutchison Telecom, said it would undercut prices charged by its rivals Cellnet and Vodafone by up to 38 per cent.

Calls made on Orange will be billed by the second rather than rounded up to the nearest minute or half-minute, as in other mobile telephone services in Britain.

Orange will not match the free off-peak local calls offered by Mercury One-2-One, the service launched last year by Cable & Wireless and US West. But Hutchison has decided not to make a monthly standing charge, which on other services may be up to pounds 25. Instead customers will have to pay a set monthly charge for which they get a certain amount of free call time.

The Orange service has five different tariff schemes aimed at rewarding those who spend the most time making calls. Depending on the scheme chosen, call charges vary from 14p to 25p a minute at peak times and from 7p to 12.5p off- peak. The monthly charges range from pounds 15, which allows 15 minutes of free calls, to pounds 100, which includes 540 minutes of calls.

Orange is offering an answerphone service as part of the standard package, although it will cost 7.5p per minute to retrieve a message. Other features include call barring and call diverting. On calls between some Orange telephones, the caller's number will be displayed.

Orange is providing 12 months' insurance free of charge. Hans Snook, managing director of Hutchison Telecom, said that there were now 10,000 mobile telephone thefts every month.

To save people the time of programming their most frequently called numbers into the telephone, they can send 50 numbers to Hutchison, which will feed them into the telephone over the air.

For an additional charge, customers may have two numbers on one telephone - one for business and one for personal use - each with its own tariff scheme, bill and ringing tone.

The telephones for use on the Orange network cost pounds 249 or pounds 299 and will be sold in high street stores as well as in specialised dealerships.

Hutchison Telecom is 65 per cent- owned by Hutchison Whampoa of Hong Kong and 30 per cent by British Aerospace, with the remainder held by Barclays.

The company is investing pounds 700m in Orange, which is available to half the population now and aims to cover 90 per cent by the middle of next year.

A European Commission report predicts mobile phone penetration in the EU will eventually reach one per adult. It calls for a policy to open up the sector and seeks an end to all restrictions on the provision of mobile phone services in member states.