“This is just the start of the 3G evolution,” said Orange UK’s new Chief Executive, Bernard Ghillebaert, as the company sought to match arch-rival Vodafone Group Plc’s offering. But analysts said customer targets for a company with more than 52 million customers were cautious.
Orange’s 3G phones, which promise services such as quality music and video, movie clips, TV and speedy mobile Web access, will cost 199-399 euros in France and from zero to 119.99 pounds in Britain from Thursday. Monthly tariffs begin at 55 euros in France and a relatively aggressive 30 pounds in Britain.
Orange is the last operator in the Freemove alliance, which includes Germany’s T-Mobile, Spain’s Telefonica Moviles and Italy’s TIM, to bring 3G phones to home markets. Market leader Vodafone unveiled the most comprehensive 3G launch last month, with 10 handset models across 13 markets.
Orange will be third to market with 3G in Britain, where the company was conceived. It will pip rivals T-Mobile UK and British-based mmO2 Plc.In France, it is launching 3G ahead of third-ranked Bouygues Telecom but after second-ranked SFR, the Vivendi-Vodafone joint venture.
“The second player in the market has announced a slightly hurried launch,” said Didier Quillot, the head of Orange France. “We are not here to be the first one to talk — but to be the first one to deliver the best offer.”