Vodafone's iPhone Envy

12:10 PM -- Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) CEO Vittorio Colao is unequivocal about what's causing trouble for the operator in Germany: It's the iPhone, or rather, his company's lack of iPhone.

On the half-year financial results conference call yesterday, Colao said that Vodafone Germany 's consumer market share was under pressure "mostly, if not exclusively, because of the iPhone." (See Vodafone Digs Deeper to Cut Costs.)

"If you look at the numbers, there's a very clear iPhone effect," he added.

Well, here are some numbers to ponder:

In Germany, T-Mobile Deutschland GmbH is still the exclusive supplier of Apple's iconic device, and it has so far sold more than 1.2 million iPhones, according to a spokesman. At the end of September, T-Mobile had 39.3 million mobile customers, up from 39.1 million at the end of June this year. (See iPhone Goes to Germany.)

Meanwhile, Vodafone's mobile customer base in the country shrank from 34.9 million at the end of June this year to 34.7 million at the end of September. On top of that, Vodafone's service revenues in Germany fell 4.8 percent to £3.8 billion (US$6.3 billion) in the six-month period ending on September 30, compared with the same period last year.

Colao is ready to take the gloves off now and has vowed to "push harder commercially" in Germany. He said the operator would do that with mobile Internet offerings, smartphones, and new prepaid plans.

And while Vodafone appears to be reeling from not having the iPhone in one of its major European markets, the operator certainly won't be pleased to learn that Orange UK sold more than 30,000 of the handsets yesterday, according to this Guardian report. Yesterday was the first day that the device was available from any operator other than Telefónica UK Ltd. in the U.K. (See O2 UK Loses iPhone Monopoly and No iPhone Price War in UK.)

Vodafone will also offer the iPhone in the U.K., but not until early next year, and Colao did not give away any pricing or availability date details on yesterday's call.

Vodafone isn't exactly iPhone-less. The world's largest operator by revenue sells the device in 10 markets: Australia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Italy, India, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa, and Turkey. (See Vodafone to Sell iPhones and Mamma Mia! Italians Get 3G iPhone .)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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