Orange Doubles FMC Customers

Orange France has left other European operators in the dust when it comes to fixed/mobile convergence (FMC). Since the end of March this year, Orange has more than doubled the number of unlicensed mobile access (UMA)-based handsets it has sold for its dual/mode GSM/WiFi service, called Unik. But Orange will have to change its game to replicate this model in other markets.

In France, Orange has sold 257,000 Unik handsets, compared to 123,000 at the end of March. By comparison, BT has just 40,000 customers for its UMA-based Fusion service at the end of March. (See BT's Flat Fusion .)

"That's certainly something to be excited about," says Emma Mohr-McClune, principal analyst at Current Analysis . "It's certainly the most successful UMA service to date and UMA's biggest success story."

Today, Orange announced that Unik will be available from 30,000 hotspots in France.

So what is Orange doing right? Light Reading has previously reported that part of the reason for the take up of Orange's FMC service has to do with the large installed base of its Livebox home gateways. At the end of March, Orange reported it had 4.765 million Liveboxes in Europe, 3.916 million of which were in France. (See Gateway Key to BT's Fusion Flop.)

The idea is that a UMA service is easier to sell if it is positioned as an add-on service to broadband. Mohr-McClune says that Orange has been very good at marketing and preparing for Unik.

"Orange has the ability to position and market Unik as a value-added service to what customers were already getting," says Mohr-McClune. "It's an easier way to market."

Other operators in Europe with UMA services include Telia Company 's HomeFree service in Denmark, Telecom Italia Mobile SpA (Milan: TIM)'s Unico service, and BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)'s Fusion. But none of these can match the subscriber take up of Orange. TeliaSonera launched HomeFree in December last year but does not disclose subscriber numbers. (See TeliaSonera Picks Moto and Deutsche Telekom Cancels FMC Service.)

Outside of France, Orange has about 8,000 UMA customers in the Netherlands. It has also soft launched the service in Spain and the U.K. Orange says it will start to aggressively market the service in the U.K., Spain, and Poland by the end of July. (See FT vs BT on FMC.)

But Orange may struggle with subscriber acquisitions in other countries because it is starting from a smaller customer base. Some believe that for Orange to overcome this disadvantage, it should extend the Unik service to work on any broadband network, not just Orange, and include flat-rate calls to any other mobile network in the offer.

"In France, Orange has a dominate broadband and mobile position, so offering a package that runs on Orange broadband and with unlimited calls to Orange mobiles is easy to do," says Steve Shaw, associate vice president of Kineto Wireless. "In Spain and the U.K., where they are competitors, they need to change the game and shake up the market."

Shaw says this is how T-Mobile US Inc. will position its UMA-based [email protected] service. It will work on any broadband network and offers unlimited flat-rate calls to any U.S. phone number for $20 per month, according to Shaw.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:06:39 PM
re: Orange Doubles FMC Customers By offering ever more open FMC options, it looks like the facilities based carriers are using this to become parasitic voice providers on competitors networks. A Vontage you cannot sue away.
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