Orange Expands Its iPhone Empire

It's official -- the iPhone has gone global.

Orange (NYSE: FTE) has struck a new, extensive deal to sell the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) device in more than 10 markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. (See Orange Strikes iPhone Deal.) The French operator, which trades under its Orange brand, already sells the iconic handset in France, where it has sold more than 100,000 units. (See iPhone's Slow Euro Sales.)

Now the international carrier will offer the iPhone in eight additional markets where it owns, or holds a controlling stake in, a mobile operator -- Belgium (Mobistar), the Dominican Republic (Orange Dominicana), Egypt (Mobinil), Jordan (MobileCom), Poland (Orange Polska), Romania (Orange Romania), Slovakia (Orange Slovensko), and Switzerland (Orange Communications S.A.).

It has also struck a deal to sell the iPhone through two European markets where it holds a significant but minority stake in an operator -- Austria, where it owns a 35 percent stake in ONE Mobil , and Portugal, where it has a 20 percent stake in Optimus Telecomunicações .

Orange will also sell the Apple device in its African markets, which include Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Madagascar, and Senegal.

There are no dates set for market launches -– Orange says only that it will sell the iPhone in these new markets "later this year."

Introducing iPhone competition
News of the Orange deal comes only days after América Móvil S.A. de C.V. , Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY) announced multi-market iPhone deals, Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) boasted a distribution deal, and Telecom Italia (TIM) struck a deal to sell the much-anticipated 3G version of the device. (See América Móvil Gets iPhone, Swiss 3G iPhone, Apple Takes Its iPhone Global, Mamma Mia! Italians Get 3G iPhone , and Vodafone to Sell iPhones.)

And whereas Apple's initial carrier relationships with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Telefónica UK Ltd. , T-Mobile International AG in Germany, and Orange in France were on an exclusive basis, the firm's new raft of iPhone distribution deals will introduce iPhone competition in multiple countries.

With consumers in Australia, India, and Italy already set to have a choice of iPhone device and service providers, Orange's new deals will introduce competition in Egypt and Portugal, where Vodafone will also be selling the device.

Waiting for the 3G version
With the number of iPhone carrier partners and launch markets growing by the day, the expectation is that some, if not many, of those operators will this year start selling the 3G version of the iPhone, which is expected to be unveiled on June 9 at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. (See Chatting Up the 3G iPhone and The Hunt for the 3G iPhone .)

So will Orange be offering a 3G version of the device? We hope to find out if any of the operator's Paris-based spokespeople ever get back from their extensive continental lunch breaks and bother to return our calls.

It seems unlikely, though, that Orange will sell the very sweet but ARPU-killing hand-knitted version of the iPhone.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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