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Vodafone joins U.K. iPhone club

30 сентября 2009

Vodafone on Tuesday revealed that it has brokered a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone in the U.K. and Ireland from next year.

The news comes 24 hours after rival operator Orange announced a U.K. iPhone distribution deal.

Like Orange, Vodafone will provide both the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS to its customers. Pricing information will follow at a later date.

However, Orange will have the phone on the shelves in time for Christmas, while Vodafone said it will launch "in early 2010".

At present, the iPhone is available in the U.K. only through O2, which signed an exclusive deal with Apple in September 2007 and launched the phone two months later.

There was much speculation about the terms of the deal O2 signed with Apple, but both played their cards close to their chests. O2 finally revealed on Monday that its exclusivity period was indeed two years, as industry watchers had predicted.

While emphasising that its relationship with Apple will continue, despite the end of the exclusive deal, O2 highlighted the fact that there are other devices out there, drawing attention in particular to the Palm Pre, which it recently said it will launch in mid-October.

After two years of being the sole supplier of the iPhone in the U.K., O2 said it has signed up 1 million-plus iPhone customers.

But while the hype around the device has waned somewhat, there is still a significant potential market out there for Orange and Vodafone.

Customers who signed up for the 3G version of the iPhone when it launched will be coming to the end of their 18-month contracts in January, including the customers that upgraded from the 2G to the 3G version, Ovum senior analyst Steven Hartley pointed out on Tuesday.

However, while there will be some price reductions for consumers, a full-on price war between the operators seems unlikely.

"We do not believe that [Orange and Vodafone] will be able to differ dramatically from O2 on the device costs (Apple’s sales terms will dictate that). However, they could exploit differences in their tariff plans," added Hartley.

The two announcements mean that essentially all the major mobile network operators in the U.K. will be able to count the iPhone among their portfolios, presuming that the planned T-Mobile, Orange tie-up goes ahead.

Источник: Total Telecom

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