Forget the gloss: Orange, T-Mobile team is little more than network sharing

The announcement by Tom Alexander, CEO of the combined Orange UK and T-Mobile UK, that Everything Everywhere would be the new brand for the holding company has provoked mixed reactions.

In an internal staff email, Alexander proclaimed that the merger opened up limitless possibilities with a unique opportunity to "shape the future of our industry, our company--and our country," adding that "the future potential of communications--and the things that we will be able to do with these technologies, is utterly unknowable."

Regardless of these 'unknowables," Alexander stressed that the new company had a clear vision and a clear understanding of the opportunity. This seemed to be based around wanting everyone to be able to do everything, everywhere, at any time, instantly.

More than a little confusing, but then this messaging would appear to have been dreamt up by an internal team with help from T-Mobile's ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi and Orange's agency Fallon. Hopefully, not too much money was spent.

Putting aside this visionary gobbledygook, the company has sensibly decided to maintain the Orange and T-Mobile brand names with the likelihood that they will remain for at least 18 months.

But key to the initial success of this joint venture has been the focus on creating a single super-network that is merged and integrated by sometime in 2012, and during this process to then figure out how they can become a fully converged operator.

John Strand of Strand Consult said the merger was following the lines of similar deals in Europe. "This is more an infrastructure marriage than a customer marriage. Basically they are following a multi-brand strategy [but] building one network whilst producing traffic together as has happened in Sweden and Norway."

Strand believes that forming a super network would force O2 and Vodafone to fully merge their networks. He said: "They will have to find a way to merge the networks. I believe they must be in talks already and will have been in talks for sometime, as the scale Orange, T-Mobile and 3UK are getting from this is huge."

Another industry commentator, Shaun Collins of CCS Insight, said the merged venture was now in a position to actively attack the enterprise market. He said: "Our research shows coverage is absolutely crucial to the business market. So, particularly at T-Mobile, with questions over its coverage removed and with its aggressive tariffs and now with the best network, it can make real inroads in the business sector."

One move that does seem likely is that the Orange brand will shift to servicing the 'premium sector," while T-Mobile will be focused on providing a straightforward, value-orientated appeal. -Paul

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