Vodafone, Orange win UK iPhone deals

Dylan Bushell-Embling
30 Sep 2009

Vodafone and Orange have both secured the rights to sell iPhones in the UK, putting an end to Telefonica O2's tenure as the market’s exclusive iPhone carrier.

Orange, which operates the UK's largest 3G network, has announced it will sell iPhone 3G and 3G S models across its distribution network.

Vodafone meanwhile said yesterday it would launch both models in the UK and Ireland in early 2010.

Both operators already offer the iPhone through affiliates in international markets, with Orange offering the handsets in 28 countries and territories, and Vodafone offering them through 13 of its subsidiaries. But they have never had the rights to sell iPhones in the UK.

Ovum senior analyst Steven Hartley said the development was sure to spark a price war between the three operators. As they will be unable to compete on handset prices due to Apple's sales terms, they will instead compete based on tariffs.

“For O2, the lapse signifies the end of the party,” Hartley said, but added that O2 still has two key advantages.

“Firstly, it has 100% UK iPhone market share,” he said. “Anyone desperate to get the iPhone will already have one and be locked into a contract. Secondly, this was always inevitable so O2 has had time to plan a response.”

O2 confirmed to the UK Press Association that it had always known the exclusive deal was for a limited time, and said it would continue to sell and support iPhones in the future.

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